In my opinion, leaving the scene of an accident is one of those traffic criminal matters that should be broken down into two categories, infraction and criminal. In my 17 years of defending all types of traffic related matters, I've rarely seen someone who was guilty of leaving the scene of an accident in the manner the law was intended.
What I almost always see, is someone who was involved in an accident (either alone or with another person), gets out and evaluates the situation, and after determining there is no reason to stay, leaves to go home. (I even had a case where a woman hit a tree, got out to walk to a house to call the police and ambulance for herself and was told to wait by the car. When she got back to the car, the police were there and she received a ticket for leaving the scene.)
In many cases, a conversation takes place between the people involved in the accident and both parties decide they are not going to call the police.
And then . . .someone changes their mind and calls the police after the other person leaves. Know what happens next? You guessed it, the person who left gets a knock on the door from the police with a criminal ticket for leaving the scene of an accident.
This is unfortunate. The law was created to stop crazy people from causing an accident and taking off with no regard for life or property. This is clearly a situation that needs a strong law. I have no problem with a law when it is applied in this circumstance.
What I, and most of my clients believe, is that the law should take into consideration the above scenario where there was no intent to "leave the scene" while trying to get away with something. Because there is no discretion for the police officer writing the ticket, a person ends up with a criminal charge that must be dealt with in a serious manner.
It is not until an attorney appears in court to explain to the judge exactly what happened, that the situation can be resolved. But that is after much time and effort has been spent preparing a defense that will be used in court. Remember, because this is a criminal matter, there is a State Attorney involved. These cases are not like regular traffic infractions. They are treated very seriously.
So what is a person to do? Well, for starters, if you are involved in an accident, always call the police. I know it can be a hassle, and sometimes you think it's not worth it. Just know, that if you don't call the police, you run the risk of being the next person in my office who says, "How can I get a ticket for leaving the scene of an accident?"
I also must inform you that if you get a ticket for leaving the scene of an accident where someone was injured it's a felony, but I assume you would know if you were involved in an accident and someone was hurt and would never just leave.
So the main point to take away from this article is no matter how much of an inconvenience it may seem, when you are involved in an accident, always call the police. If you don't, you may be calling a traffic attorney next.
If you are reading this article too late, and got a ticket for leaving the scene of an accident and feel it was unfair or want to fight it, we offer a free consultation and would be happy to discuss your case with you. You can either call us at 866-374-8355 or email me here.