Featured News 2014 Define the Law: Failure to Stop and Render Aid

Define the Law: Failure to Stop and Render Aid

While state laws will vary in the exact details, almost every state has a law that addresses hit-and-run accidents, or the failure to "stop and render aid" if someone gets into a car accident. Even if someone is responsible for the accident, this would not necessarily be a crime. But even if the driver was not responsible for a crash, they would be guilty of a crime if they left the scene without stopping, helping the other motorists, or giving the other driver their information.

The Duty to Stop
A driver has this duty to stop, identify, and render aid if the driver knows that there has been damage or injury; this includes even small crashes, like a fender bender, because there is at least vehicle damage. And drivers may not have the defense that they were unaware of the accident. Even if they truly did not know there had been an accident, if it is deemed that the driver should have known about the accident, then they can still be held guilty of a failure to stop and render aid.

The Duty to Identify
This means that drivers have to exchange personal contact information and information about their insurance policy. This is the disclosure that is mandated by law. What drivers do not have to do is explain the events that led up to the crash, or any other such details. This is true even when speaking to police. If, however, there is no one inside the other vehicle, such as in a parking lot accident, then the driver has to track down the empty car's owner. Or they have to leave behind the necessary information in a spot easily seen and accessed by the car owner.

The Duty to Render Aid
When a driver has been in an accident, they have to help the others involved if necessary. What type of aid is required will hinge on the details of that particular instance. What is never required, however, is that drivers put themselves in harm's way in order to render aid.

A Passenger's Liability
A passenger does not have the duty to stop, identify, or render aid. But there are times when a passenger can be held guilty for a hit-and-run accident. This could be the case if a passengers pleads with the driver to leave the scene of the accident. If that driver is convicted of failure to stop and render aid, then so too can the passenger face conviction.

Penalties for a Hit-and-Run Conviction
Depending on the state as well as on the circumstances of the case, this charge could be a felony or a misdemeanor. Generally speaking, if someone was killed or injured in the crash, then this will be a felony; if there was only property damage then the charge should typically be a misdemeanor. If the charge is a misdemeanor, then penalties could include up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. A felony conviction could mean 10 years in prison, perhaps more, and fines could be higher than $10,000. In either case, there could also be probation for at least a year and restitution. There would probably be a suspension or revocation of that person's driver's license, but this will not be something that a judge orders; the DMV has to make this decision. And again, separate from court proceedings, a conviction would like mean a spike in insurance premiums.

If you face such serious charges and their severe penalties, you need to act now to defend your reputation and your future. Find the experienced criminal defense lawyer you need today!

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