When there is an auto accident in Virginia, it is natural for a person to be fearful. In the immediate aftermath, they might think they are going to be in trouble and worry about their future. This is common in young or new drivers, but it can happen to anyone.
A common error is to leave the scene. This can lead to criminal penalties, especially if there was property damage or injuries. Those who are accused of failing to stop after an auto accident should know the law and be prepared to craft a defense.
Drivers have a duty to stop after an accident with property damage or injuries
When there has been an auto accident, drivers are legally obligated to stop their vehicle and wait to provide law enforcement and others involved in the collision with their name, address, driver’s license information, proof of insurance and other information. If there were injuries in the accident, the driver is also expected to provide reasonable assistance. That might include taking them to a hospital or medical center.
In certain instances, the driver is injured in the crash and cannot comply with this law. They must make a report with law enforcement as soon as they are able to do so. It is also necessary to try and locate anyone else who was involved in the accident and give them their information.
People who do not follow this law can find themselves under arrest. The penalties can be severe since it is a Class 5 felony if there were injuries or fatalities or there was more than $1,000 in property damage. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor if there is less than $1,000 in damage to property.
The penalties for a conviction can be significant. Those convicted of a Class 5 felony can be imprisoned for at least one and up to 10 years. The jury or court has some discretion and the person can face up to 12 months’ incarceration, a fine of $2,500 or both. These are the penalties if there is a conviction of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Leaving the scene of an accident can be serious and assistance will likely be needed
While it is understandable for people to want to get away as soon as possible, leaving the scene of an accident can lead to legal problems that are costly in myriad ways. In some instances, they might not even realize there was damage or another person was injured. Regardless, it is important to be aware of the possible consequences and to fight the charges. Consulting with professionals who have experience in traffic offenses can help with a criminal defense.