Arizona's Hit-And-Run Laws

Hit-and-Run Accidents in Arizona

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. 

What’s the Frequency of Hit-and-Run Accidents in Arizona?

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. 

What Constitutes a Hit-and-Run Felony?

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. 

What Causes People to Flee an Accident Scene?

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

  1. iv) The driver has a suspended license or none at all
  2. v) The driver is carrying illegal things in the car

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.

What to Do If You’ve Fled an Accident Scene

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. 

What to Do If You’re the Victim of a Hit-and-Run Accident

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

What If Animals Are Involved?

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.

Reach Out to Canyon State Law!

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/

Understanding Your Rights as a Criminal Defendant

No one likes to imagine the likelihood of being charged with a crime, as a conviction can have serious consequences. Thankfully, a Mesa criminal defense attorney from Canyon State Law can relieve you of much of the stress and worry associated with a criminal case. They will guide you through your legal options and help protect your rights as a defendant.

By understanding your rights as a criminal defendant, you can confidently prepare for the difficult situation - if it occurs. At Canyon State Law, we're keen to inform you about your fundamental rights under the US Constitution and how they can benefit you when facing a criminal charge. Let's discuss them in detail below.

The Right to Stay Silent

Most people are familiar with Miranda rights, which state that you have a right to remain silent and not answer questions posed by law enforcement officers. This means anything you say during an arrest can be used against you in court. Thus, you should inform the officers that you wish to remain silent until your attorney is present.

If you decide to speak up or field their questions, you could incriminate yourself unknowingly. In turn, this would make it harder for your attorney to defend you in court.

We know; you might be tempted to answer questions hoping law enforcers let you off the hook. Plus, you might be unaware of the consequences in the heat of the moment. While the police are allowed to question you, they may employ specific tactics to get you talking. Please don't fall for their antics. Instead, let your attorney handle them, which leads us to our next point.

The Right to an Attorney

The Constitution states that anyone facing criminal charges has the right to legal representation and can hire a lawyer or rely on a public defender if qualified. Simply put, even if you can't afford a criminal lawyer, the government can provide you with an attorney at no cost.

Even if you plan on pleading guilty, having an experienced defense attorney in your corner can help ensure your rights are not violated during the process. For instance, they can help negotiate on your behalf to secure a favorable plea agreement or a lesser sentence.

If you decide to go it alone, the odds of a successful legal outcome are low - and your rights may be overlooked. For instance, the prosecutor may introduce incriminating evidence to help the court make a guilty verdict. And since you may not understand the law, you’re unlikely to distinguish between admissible and inadmissible evidence.

The Right to a Fair Trial

A fair trial is guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution, which states that all defendants shall enjoy “the right to a speedy and public trial.” This means your attorney can cross-examine witnesses, challenge evidence presented by the prosecution on the grounds of legality, and present your case in court.

Besides, the evidence presented must meet certain guidelines before it can be considered valid or permissible in court. This includes admissible statements you make while under police questioning, witness statements, and physical evidence collected.

You also have the right to know your accuser, including the charges they're leveling against you. Sometimes, people end up in police custody without an idea of the offenses they're being accused of - if this is your situation and the police aren't forthcoming, inform your attorney. They'll take the necessary steps to find out.

You can also call witnesses to testify on your behalf or present evidence as part of your defense. Their testimony can dispute the prosecution's evidence and reduce your sentence if found guilty.

A trial by jury usually determines the outcome of your case. The jury comprises impartial citizens who review all evidence and testimony before reaching a verdict. The jury's duty is to protect your rights and ensure justice.

The Right to a Speedy Trial

When you’re arrested and charged with a criminal offense, the prosecution may stall the trial to build a strong case against you. This shouldn't be the case, as the Constitution guarantees a prompt trial.

Your attorney can file a motion to reduce or dismiss your charges if the prosecution violates this right. If the court deems it fit to hold a trial, you can demand a speedy trial.

The Right to a Presumption of Innocence Until Guilt is Established

A criminal trial doesn't mean you're guilty - you're only considered guilty if the verdict is 'guilty.' Until then, the law presumes you are innocent, and it's the prosecution's job to prove you committed the crime.

Your attorney can explain this principle during the trial and present sufficient evidence to back you up. If you're found not guilty, the charges against you will be dismissed, and you can walk away a free person. Conversely, a guilty verdict isn't always the end of the road, as the point below explains.

The Right to Appeal

You can appeal the court's ruling if the jury finds you guilty. To do this, you need a competent criminal attorney. They can file a motion for a higher court to review the decision or set aside the verdict.

The court examines the trial transcripts and new evidence before ruling. It also reviews the court's instructions during the trial to determine if they conformed with the law. For instance, if the lower court overlooked a technicality, then the higher court may reverse the decision.

Canyon State Law’s knowledgeable attorneys regard your rights as a criminal defendant as paramount. As such, we protect them throughout the trial process. We also treat you with respect and dignity as we advocate on your behalf. We're also aware of the implication of a criminal conviction. As such, we battle relentlessly (hard and long), using available legal resources to help you get a favorable outcome - an acquittal or reduced charges. Consider exploring our website at https://canyonstatelaw.com/mesa-criminal-defense-lawyer/ for insightful resources as you start a conversation with us or as we evaluate your case.