A hit-and-run accident is one in which the perpetrator (driver) flees the accident scene after being involved in an accident. Such an accident could include hitting a pedestrian, a signpost, someone’s fence, or colliding with another vehicle. In Arizona, fleeing the scene of such an accident can have serious legal consequences ranging from fines to imprisonment. If you or a loved are in legal trouble due to a hit-and-run situation, you can contact a Mesa criminal defense attorney to handle your case.
Arizona has experienced a significant number of new residents over the past couple of years, with some estimates putting the number of those moving in at nearly 800,000. This, of course, means that a vast number of new drivers use the roads. With more people comes an increased likelihood of traffic incidents including hit-and-runs
According to official figures from the Arizona Department of Transportation, there’s an average of over 15, 000 hit-and-runs each year. About a third of those result in injuries while property damage results in most cases.
Road users like cyclists and pedestrians are the common victims of hit-and-runs in Arizona.
Under Arizona law, a hit-and-run accident is one whereby one of the involved parties leaves the accident scene without providing assistance (within reason) or withholds their personal information. A good example is when someone hits another vehicle or road user. If one party leaves the scene for whatever reason, this is a classic hit-and-run. Depending on the facts, such an individual could face a misdemeanor charge.
If the accident results in property damage, the party that fled the scene will face a misdemeanor charge with a possibility of going to jail for up to 30 days. A fine of $500 could also be imposed. This is classed a misdemeanor 3 applicable to non-vehicle property like fences. Hitting a parked car also carries the same punishment. For hit-and-runs involving a moving vehicle, the sentence could go up to 4 months with two years’ probation. The fine will be $750.
A hit-and-run resulting in minor injuries like cuts and bruises carries a jail term of up to 2.5 years. The perpetrator’s driver’s license will also be revoked for 3 years.
For hit-and-runs involving severe injuries or death, the punishment is a minimum of 8.5 years in prison and a license revocation of at least 5 years. If the driver caused the accident, they can face up to 12.5 years behind bars and lose their driving privileges for up to 10 years.
In all the above instances, the sentence can be bumped up for perpetrators with a prior criminal conviction or a checkered driving history. For example, someone with multiple DUIs can face up to 4 years in prison for a hit-and-run involving only minor injuries. Similarly, a convicted felon that does a hit-and-run could face up to 15 years in jail if the victim dies.
There are several reasons why people leave an accident scene before exchanging the necessary information or waiting for law enforcement to arrive. These reasons include:
i)Driving a stolen car or one without proper documentation
ii)The driver is a suspect in an unrelated case or has an outstanding warrant
iii) The driver is under the influence of alcohol or some other controlled substance
These are the main reasons for people fleeing an accident scene. Of course, some rare cases could involve individuals in no-go areas. A good example is a registered sex offender that’s forbidden from coming within 100 yards of a school. If such an offender were to get involved in an accident in a school’s proximity, they’ll likely flee to avoid further trouble on top of the hit-and-run.
It’s crucial to remember that a hit-and-run simply involves physically removing yourself and/or your vehicle from the accident scene. This is irrespective of whether or not you do it voluntarily. For instance, if you hit someone during inclement weather like a heavy storm, you may not realize it and keep driving. This still constitutes a hit-and-run, putting you at risk of imprisonment or fines even though you could’ve stopped to render assistance had you known.
If you’ve fled the scene of an accident inadvertently or otherwise, you must speak with a criminal lawyer to see how you can make things right.
There is always a strong temptation to chase after the at-fault driver in a hit-and-run situation. In addition to being risky, you could find yourself in more legal trouble should you get pulled over for speeding and reckless driving.
Instead of chasing the other driver, try to keep calm and move your vehicle to safety. Assuming you’re not badly injured, attempt to make out the car’s license plate. This’ll make it easier for the authorities to locate the perpetrator. Other things to write down quickly include:
-The car’s make and model
-The car’s color
-Any distinguishing features like bumper stickers
-The perpetrator’s physical description e.g a stout man
-Contact information of any witnesses to the accident
If you hit an animal, wild or domestic, you could still face hit-and-run misdemeanor charges if you don’t report it to the authorities. Depending on the animal. For purposes of the law, a domestic animal that is unrestrained or not in physical control of its owner at the time of an accident is considered “at large.” This won’t land you in trouble as long as you report the incident immediately to the authorities. While animals are considered not to have an owner; however, you must still report any accident involving them. Fleeing an accident scene involving any animal could get you a misdemeanor.
If you’re involved in a situation that has any elements of a hit-and-run case, reach out to our lawyers at Canyon State Law. We’ve been providing legal assistance to people in Mesa and beyond. We know how to navigate such cases, giving you the kind of legal representation you need. Contact us at https://canyonstatelaw.com/mesa-criminal-defense-lawyer/.
Genesis DUI & Criminal Defense Lawyers - Peoria AZ Office
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