Ignorance of the law is no defense. This is a statement drilled into our heads by legal dramas and political pundits. Of course, we aren’t all lawyers either, so ignorance isn’t the best word.
To stay safe, and sane, in a world with seemingly arbitrary and complex sets of rules, general awareness is the goal. Hit and run laws, like most laws, shift from state to state.
Knowing the specifics of a law requires a lot of time and effort. Look for handy tools like this to seek out specifics.
In lieu of specifics, understanding the gist can help you avoid costly mistakes. Read on to learn about the six basic scopes of these laws.
Hit and Run Laws
If you drive a car, you’ve already dealt with the tedium of traffic laws. Half of the tests for a driver’s license concern ability and the other knowledge,
That knowledge emphasizes preventative information, not what to do after a problem. In the case of hit and run consequences, fear drives people to commit the act.
Common fight or flight responses cause a lot of problems when it comes to the average citizen. understanding the scope of these six umbrella laws helps to actualize the event.
Whenever possible look for a legal website to find out more about your state’s laws for clarification.
1. Duty to Render Aid
The first of the two duties that form a condition for hit and run as an offense considers the question of aid.
By requiring all parties in an accident to render aid, the condition is set to specify when someone fails to do so. Without this duty, there would be no way to establish criminal intent.
Rendering aid includes immediate help as well as providing necessary information for future redress.
Seeing an accident is different than being involved. Samaritan laws may be in place in a given state which requires witnesses to act but are not part of the hit and run laws themselves.
Passengers in any vehicle involved in an accident, depending on legal standing, count for this duty. Aiding or convincing someone not to render aid falls into these laws.
2. Duty to Report
The second duty serves to protect participants in an incident from mistakes and oversights. Reporting an accident brings law enforcement into the loop. This sets the ability for fault to be allocated.
It also serves to aid involved parties in recovering any missed information at a later time. Even well-intentioned people can easily forget important information at the time of an accident.
Reporting the incident ensures that due diligence gets performed.
3. Property Damage
One of the most common concerns people have in an accident is the severity of the consequences. The difference between a hit and run felony or misdemeanor involves the amount of damage and to what.
Property struck by a vehicle results in a misdemeanor charge if either of the two (or both) duties are ignored.
The property doesn’t need to be a vehicle nor does it have to be private property.
Misdemeanor hit and run punishment includes jail time, fines, and penalties against your license.
Since property doesn’t necessarily involve a second person, the duties shift a bit. Reporting is a two-part process including reporting to authorities and reporting to the property owner. Often this includes an attempt to locate the owner or leaving a note with contact information.
The duty to aid also includes removing potential harm to others. Property displaced to obstruct traffic flow needs to be moved to a safe area. Alert others to danger if a broken property could result in injury.
For something like a public utility being broken, you may face additional charges for rolling harm.
4. Bodily Harm and Death
Felony level hit and run typically involves bodily injury or death. If damage to property exceeds certain amounts that can also count.
Punishment for felony-level hit and run injuries include years of prison time, higher fines, suspension or loss of license.
The severity of felony hit and run also adds additional punishment to civil actions. In most states, a ruling for damages in a civil case will automatically be trebled. This means triple the assigned monetary penalty.
5. Public vs Private
The laws on the books cover public roads. Hit and run incidents originally counted only for public spaces. A private space, such as a farm or parking lot, where many vehicles may come into contact with each other for various reasons, were deemed outside the criminal court’s jurisdiction.
In recent years, the precedent has shifted to include private spaces under the criminal statutes.
An accident that occurs in a parking lot, even a small one like a door hitting another car when opened, can be counted as criminal hit and run.
The temperament of local courts, attitude of the prosecution, and quality of a defense attorney all matter in determining if a small private incident will be counted as a hit and run over a strictly civil matter.
6. Civil Recourses
Even after any criminal charges are brought by the state, private citizens wronged in a hit and run incident are allowed to file lawsuits.
It’s possible for a civil court to find fault with a different driver even after a hit and run conviction. Fault is a matter of the incident that applies damages and is part of tort law.
Leaving the scene of an accident without properly carrying out the two duties leads to criminal charges.
Courts have awarded monetary compensation to people convicted of a hit and run even in the case of death.
This is one more reason to follow through with the two duties and not flee the scene of an accident. In the case of a civil court deciding for a person committing a criminal hit and run, treble damages do not apply.
Safety is No Accident
The best way to stay clear of hit and run laws is to follow through on the two duties. Driver’s license test manuals won’t always contain the right information. Check your state laws for clarification in penalties and especially for unattended property notification guidelines.
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