Failing to stop at the scene of an accident in Virginia is a common charge. Many people do not wish to incriminate themselves by staying at the scene of a crash and will leave to avoid liability and responsibility. In other cases, they don't realize that they have struck someone and simply keep going about their day. In any case, leaving the scene of an accident ("hit and run") in Fairfax County is a serious charge that has substantial consequences. However, in many cases, there are good defenses to this charge and hiring a traffic attorney is very important in these cases because we know the court system.
Injury or Damage to Attended Property
Virginia Code §46.2-894 requires that an individual stop as close to the accident as possible when either an individual is injured or there is property damage to an attended vehicle. The person must provide their name, address, driver's license number, and vehicle registration to either the police, to the person struck, or to a passenger of the struck vehicle if the driver is unable to understand or is incapable of knowing what is going on. If, however, the individual in the struck vehicle is injured and the driver cannot comply with these requirements, they must contact the police to otherwise comply with this statute.
If the person does indeed leave the scene without complying with the statute and there is an injury, or property damage exceeding $1000, it is a Class 5 Felony (otherwise known as Felony Hit and Run in Virginia). Pursuant to §18.2-10 of the Virginia Code, the punishment for Felony Hit and Run is up to 10 years in prison with a fine of up to $2500.
If there is no injury and the property damage is $1000 or less it is a Class 1 Misdemeanor. A Class 1 Misdemeanor imparts a potential jail sentence of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2500 (see §18.2-11).
In addition, if there is property damage exceeding $500, the Court may suspend the license for up to six months.
Passenger in an Accident
The law also requires that a passenger involved in an accident report or at least ensure that it is reported to the police within 24 hours of the accident. The reporting must include the passenger's name, address, and any other information they have that is required under §46.2-894. As a result, even if you are a passenger in an accident, you must make sure it is reported.
The penalty for the passenger in an accident is a Class 6 Felony (see §18.2-10) if the accident resulted in an injury or death. If there is no injury but property damage, it is a Class 1 Misdemeanor. Finally, if there is property damage of less than $250 it is a Class 4 Misdemeanor. Please note that, even as a passenger, the Court can suspend the driver's license of up to six months if there is more than $500 in property damage.
Damage to Unattended Property
When there is no injury but simple property or vehicle damage and the vehicle or property unattended, Virginia Code §46.2-896 imparts a duty to find the owner and report to them their name, address, driver's license, number, and vehicle registration. If, however, the owner cannot be found, then the person must leave a note with their contact information and contact the police within 24 hours. As above, this duty also extends to any passengers in the vehicle that struck the unattended property. These type of Hit and Run situations typically involve parked cars where the driver is not present.
Defenses to Hit and Run
The law requires the prosecution to prove who the driver was, that there was an injury or damage to property, that the Defendant either knew or should have known there was an injury or damage, and that they failed to stop or otherwise report the accident as specified in the statute.
Hit and Run cases in Fairfax County many times lend itself to great defenses. Because the person did not stop at the scene of the crash, identification of the driver becomes important. For example, just because the striking vehicle is registered to a particular person does not mean that they were the driver (they could have let someone borrow the vehicle that date for example). In other cases, what kind of information was provided? Many people do stop at the scene of an accident and provide what information they can. After all, how else were they later identified and brought to court?
Free Consultation for Hit and Run
Feel free to use the contact form below or give us a call. We frequently handle hit and run cases in Fairfax County and have a good record in having the charges either reduced or dismissed. All consultations are confidential and free.