The moment you are involved in an auto accident, your heart races and you breathe faster. Adrenaline kicks in and your brain goes into overdrive. Sometimes this can make it difficult to make good decisions, and perhaps this is the reason you are now charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Whatever the case, penalties for this criminal offense can be quite severe, and contacting a local attorney should be a top concern.
You have a responsibility under Pennsylvania law to stop following an accient, no matter how minor the damage may seem. Failing to do so can bring about criminal charges with serious penalties.
An experienced defense lawyer knows there are many reasons someone might not stop when involved in an accident. Maybe their license had been suspended or they knew they had a warrant. Unfortunately, leaving the scene will only add to these existing troubles.
Pennsylvania Hit and Run Laws
Duty to Stop
When you are involved in an accident with another vehicle, whether it was also moving or if it was empty and stationary, you are required to stop. Under the law, you must exchange information with the other driver, or attempt to contact the owner of an empty vehicle. If someone is injured, you are required to provide reasonable assistance and contact emergency authorities.
It’s in failing to live up to this requirement that the criminal charges arise. (PA Code §75-3744)
Pennsylvania Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
The penalties for a hit & run depend largely on the severity of the accident. If the accident resulted in only property damage, you could face a 3rd degree misdemeanor charge which carries up to one year in prison and fines reaching $2,500.
Ref: PA Code §75-3743
If, however, the accident resulted in injury or death of another person, the penalty is far more severe:
Leaving the scene of an accident where injury results is considered a 3rd degree felony, carrying a mandatory minimum 90 day jail sentence and up to 7 years in prison, along with a minimum $1,000 fine.
Leaving the scene of an accident where the victim dies is also considered a 3rd degree felony, and carries a mandatory minimum of 1 year in prison, with a maximum of 7 years. It also requires a minimum fine of $2,500.
These mandatory minimum sentences cannot be reduced or suspended.
Ref: PA Code §75-3742
There’s also a good chance that you will lose your driving privileges for a time, if convicted.
Although a charge like this can be truly frightening, all hope is not lost. You still have options. A local criminal defense lawyer can help you determine the best course of action for your case. Contact our offices today to discuss the charges and what can be done.