Leaving After Colliding

 Washington, D.C.

While it is not a crime to be involved in a traffic accident, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident without either reporting the incident or waiting for police to arrive.  This is known in many jurisdictions as “hit-and-run” or as “leaving the scene of an accident.”  In Washington, D.C., the offense is called “Leaving After Colliding.”

There are two different forms of the offense in D.C.  In the case of an accident in which another person has been injured, the person must immediately stop and make sure that emergency assistance is provided as necessary.  The person must also (1) remain on the scene until police arrive and (2) provide identifying information to both law enforcement personnel and to the injured person.

The penalty for a first-time violator of this part of the statute is a maximum fine of $1,000 and incarceration for up to 180 days.  Second offenders are subject to a fine of $2,500 and up to 1 year in jail.

In cases in which the car accident results in property damage or in injury to a domestic animal, the person must immediately stop.  The person must also provide identifying information to the owner of the property or animal.  If the owner is not present, the person must provide identifying information and the location of the collision to law enforcement or to the 911 operator.

The penalty for a first-time violator of this part of the statute is a $250 fine and 30 days in jail.

It is an affirmative defense to this charge that the person’s failure to stop or to remain on the scene was the result of a reasonable believe that his or her personal safety was at risk and that he or she called 911 or otherwise notified law enforcement as soon as it was safe to do so.  It is not a defense that the person was intoxicated, impaired in any way or distracted or that the person was not at fault for the collision.

People who are suspected of having violated this statute are typically notified by mail and asked to come into a police district building to answer questions.  Because these people are now potentially subject to criminal liability, it is important that they hire defense counsel to accompany them for this interview.   For a D.C. criminal defense attorney with experience handling this type of case, please contact Jamison Koehler at 202-549-2374 or jkoehler@koehlerlaw.net.

Source:  Comprehensive Impaired Driving and Alcohol Testing Program Emergency Amendment Act of 2012.

Virginia

Motorists involved in a traffic accident in Virginia are generally required to wait at the scene until police arrive to investigate. There are certain exceptions to this requirement. If, for example, the motorist is injured and requires medical treatment him/herself, the “driver shall, as soon as reasonably possible, make the required report to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency and make a reasonable effort to locate the person struck, or the driver or some other occupant of the vehicle collided with, or the custodian of the damaged property, and report to such person or persons his name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number.”

If the vehicle or property that is damaged is unattended, the driver should make a “reasonable effort” to identify and notify the owner/custodian. Failing this, the driver should leave a note or other form of communication that includes driver identification and contact information and report the accident in writing to State or local police within 24 hours. The written report should include the date, time, and place of the accident and the driver’s description of the property damage.

If the driver fails to stop and/or report the accident, any person who is 16 years of age or older who is with the driver at the time of the accident also has a duty to report.

The penalty for this offense depends on the severity of the accident and the degree of damage to either person or property. If the property is unattended and the damage is estimated at less than $250, the person is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $250. The person will also be assessed three demerit points on his/her license by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If the accident results in damage only to property estimated at $250 to $1,000, the person will be subject to punishment as a Class 1 misdemeanor.  Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of $2,500.  The offense can also result in a suspension by the court of the driver’s operating privileges for up to 6 months.

If the accident results in injury or death to any person or if the property damage as a result of the accident is greater than $1,000, the driver can be found guilty of a Class 6 felony.  Class 6 felonies are punishable by imprisonment of 1 to 5 years, confinement in jail for up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Virginia Code §§ 46.2-894 through 46.2-902.1.