People may leave the scene of an accident without exchanging contact information with the other driver. They may think that in doing so they will not get caught. Alternatively, they could have been intoxicated at the time of the accident and fear the criminal penalties. Some people may be charged with this offense and not know they even struck anything. Regardless of how and why it happened, it is a crime in Massachusetts, and it could lead to jail time.
The Sentence Depends on What Happened in the Accident
The penalties for leaving the scene of an accident depend on whether there was property damage and/or personal injuries. If there was no physical damage whatsoever, there is no obligation to stop and exchange information. However, most car accidents will result in at least some property damage. The most minor category of offense is leaving the scene after property damage occurred but no personal injury. This is a misdemeanor. Those convicted of this crime face the following:
- A fine between $20-200
- Jail time between two weeks to two years
- Some combination of both
Jail time is not mandatory for this crime, but it is always a possibility that the prosecutor could seek a sentence. However, when someone is hurt in an accident, there is a mandatory minimum sentence. For leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury, a driver could face:
- Jail time between six months and two years
- A fine between $500-1000
Finally, the jail sentence rises to 2 ½-10 years when a driver has left the scene of an accident that has resulted in death. This is a felony crime.
Collateral Consequences of a Conviction
There will be consequences beyond jail time and the fine. First, the driver may have a mandatory license suspension. Then, criminal convictions can remain on your record for the rest of your life, causing you problems in many aspects of your life. You may have difficulty finding a job or even getting a place to live. This is why you need legal help after you have been arrested and/or charged with this offense.
There are various potential defenses to allegations of leaving the scene of an accident. For example, you may not have even known that you hit someone, or perhaps there was no apparent property damage. Likewise, you may have stopped and tried to give the required information, but you may not have been able to find the other driver to give it to them.
Whether you choose to defend the charges or negotiate with the prosecutor, you will need legal help. An attorney will investigate your accident and get to the bottom of your case. They will advise you of your legal options and the way to achieve the best possible legal outcome for your case. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of the legal system and the prosecutor.
Call Us Today to Speak with a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer
Do I need a lawyer if I have been accused of leaving the scene of an accident?
Yes. Leaving the scene is a serious offense, and you should have legal representation.
If there is a warrant out for my arrest, what should I do?
You should call an attorney immediately. At a minimum, your attorney can ensure that your rights are protected when you surrender yourself. You should also anticipate having to post bail upon your surrender.
Are there defenses available to accusations of leaving the scene?
In many cases, yes. An attorney can review the facts of your case and determine whether any apply.