Whether you are at fault for the crash or not, you are required to stop. And if, for some reason, you had to leave the scene, you should report the incident to the law enforcers within the shortest time possible. Passengers also have to report.

Drivers and passengers can be punished for leaving an accident scene in Virginia. Worse, if one is drunk during the incident. A Fairfax criminal defense attorney can explain what is at stake and offer advice on fighting for better outcomes.

Is Hit-and-Run Punished as a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

Hit-and-run can either be punished as a misdemeanor or as a felony. A felony charge is brought when the accident whose scene you left resulted in:

  • Property damage worth above $1,000
  • Death
  • Injury

You could expect misdemeanor charges if the accident scene you left had:

  • No death
  • Property damage below $1,000
  • No injuries

Felony consequences usually are more serious than misdemeanor penalties. So, you want to ensure that you are not charged with a felony, yet your offense was a misdemeanor. A Fairfax hit-and-run defense lawyer could negotiate or fight for reduced charges when such mistakes happen.

Are There Additional Penalties for Leaving the Scene While Drunk?

If you left the scene of an accident and the police established that you were driving while intoxicated, the penalties might be more serious. Apart from the hit-and-run penalties, you might be charged with other criminal offenses, including:

  • DUI causing death
  • DUI causing serious bodily injuries
  • DUI causing an accident
  • DUI

These additional charges can take away your freedom for a more extended period and affect your driving record significantly. It is imperative that you secure a Fairfax hit-and-run defense lawyer to defend you and prevent the punitive consequences of a hit-and-run involving DUI.

What are the Penalties for Hit-and-Run on Unattended Property for Drivers?

The penalties for leaving an accident scene of an unattended property depend on the value of the damage caused. Damage worth less than $250 is a class 4 misdemeanor punishable with:

  • Three demerit points in your driving record
  • Fines of up to $250

The offense graduates to a class 1 misdemeanor if the value of property damage exceeds $250. Penalties in this category of offense include:

  • Three demerit points in your driving record
  • Up to $2500 in fines
  • Jail for up to 12 months

While the classification, jail term, and fines for leaving the scene with damages worth more than $500 are similar to that for damage exceeding $250, there are a few distinctions. Drivers risk:

  • Four demerit points on your driving record
  • Six months of drivers’ license suspension

How Does Virginia Punish Hit-and-Run on Attended Property?

If the property damage on the attended property is below $1,000, it is charged as a class 1 misdemeanor. Its penalties include:

  • Four demerit points on your driving record
  • Up to $2,500 in fine
  • As long as 12 months in jail
  • Six months of drivers’ license suspension for damage exceeding $500

Property damage exceeding $1,000 comes with stiffer penalties, being a class 5 felony. They include:

  • Six demerit points on your driving record
  • Driver’s license revocation for a year
  • Fines of up to $2,500
  • Up to 10 years imprisonment

The best way to stay safe from the above harsh penalties is to fight them aggressively. An experienced hit-and-run defense attorney in Fairfax, VA, conversant with the best defenses in Virginia can represent you.

What are the Penalties for Passengers Failing to Report a Hit-and-Run?

For property damage less than $250 on unattended property, passengers that fail to report can be charged for a class 4 misdemeanor and punished with fines of up to $250. Damages worth more than $250 on attended or unattended property can attract $2,500 in fines and 12 months in jail.

Damages exceeding $500 could result in the passenger’s drivers’ license being suspended for six months. However, the DMV might not add any demerit points to your driving record. If you had valid reasons for not reporting within 24 hours, you could use it as a defense.

What are the Penalties for a Hit-and-Run With Injuries or Death?

Hit-and-run accidents that end up with deaths or injuries are prosecuted as class 5 felonies for drivers. The penalties are:

  • Six demerit points on your driving record
  • Driver’s license revocation for one year
  • Up to $2,500 in fines
  • Up to 10 years in prison

The penalties for passengers that fail to report are deemed to have committed a class 6 felony. They might be punished with:

  • Up to $2,500 in fines
  • Imprisonment of up to 5 years

Being the most serious level of hit-and-run in Virginia, it also carries the most punitive penalties. Accused persons should not risk their freedom with half-baked defenses and inexperienced representation.

What Defenses Can I Use to Avoid Hit-and-Run Penalties?

If there are no grounds to negotiate for a dismissal or reduction of charges, a good defense would be your best bet. Some of the common approaches include:

  • A failure by police to follow the right procedure in their investigation
  • You weren’t operating the vehicle during the accident
  • The incident did not have any injuries or property damage
  • You had justifiable reasons to not remain in the accident scene, e.g., a serious injury

Note that defenses are best formulated on a case-by-case basis. An argument used in one hit-and-run incident might not be applicable in another. A case evaluation is necessary in determining the most appropriate defense for your case.

Get Legal Guidance from an Experienced Criminal Defense Professional

Your life can change after a hit-and-run incident. Drivers and passengers can lose their freedom, and part with hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines. Drivers can get demerit points in their driving record, and passengers can also have their licenses suspended.

However, these consequences are avoidable if you work with a seasoned and experienced legal expert in Virginia. We can evaluate your case and formulate defenses that can guarantee the best possible outcome. Contact us immediately after leaving the accident scene.