The human response to uncomfortable situations is to either remain there and fight or to run away as soon as possible. And that is what happens to drivers involved in a crash – major or minor. Unfortunately, you may get into serious trouble if you comply with your body’s response and drive away from the accident scene in Virginia.

Drivers risk their licenses being suspended, lengthy jail terms, and dollars in fines. So if you have already driven far away from the scene, a Fairfax criminal defense attorney can help you fight the charges. With a good defense, it is easy to get better outcomes for your hit-and-run charges. The goal is to have the least possible punishment if you can’t get an acquittal or a dismissal.

What Constitutes ‘Leaving an Accident Scene’?

Leaving the accident scene can attract serious charges in Virginia. However, it is essential to understand what it actually means.

Here is what it involves:

  • You know or should have known that there was an impact between you and another vehicle or property but left the scene.
  • You failed to contact or locate the other party after hitting an unoccupied or unattended vehicle or property.
  • Failing to exchange insurance information with the other person before leaving
  • Leaving without attempting to wait for the police or emergency services

Notably, there are circumstances where leaving the scene is permissible and may not attract criminal charges. A Fairfax hit-and-run defense lawyer can help you understand this and ensure that you are not charged on the wrong grounds. Here is what you can do:

  • If there are no injuries or fatalities, you are allowed to move your vehicle to an adjacent safer location – out of traffic.
  • You can move the car to a nearby parking lot, around a corner off the main road, or pull onto a shoulder.
  • After advising the other party, it is best to drive in a controlled and slow manner.

Is Leaving the Accident Scene a Crime?

Motorists that leave an accident scene can face life-changing criminal charges in Virginia, but a Fairfax hit-and-run defense lawyer can find intelligent ways to fight the charges. The magnitude of the penalties depends on the seriousness of the injuries, the presence or absence of fatalities, and the value of the damage caused.

Misdemeanor Hit-and-Run

If no one was injured in the accident when you left the scene, the incident could be charged as a misdemeanor.

  • Class 1 Misdemeanor. If the value of damage on an unattended vehicle is between $250 and $1000, the crime is a Class 1 misdemeanor. For attended cars, the damages’ value has to be below $1,000 to be under this classification. And if you are pronounced guilty, you can be jailed for up to a year.
  • Class 4 Misdemeanor. Convicts of Class 4 misdemeanors are safe from jail terms because the offense is usually punished with fines. This only happens if the damage is on an unattended vehicle or property whose value is below $250.

Felony Hit-and-Run

If a pedestrian, a passenger, or a driver got injured in the accident scene you left, the case could be treated as a Class 5 felony. If someone died or the value of property damaged exceeds $1,000, you can be charged with a felony. Convicts can be locked up in prison for up to 10 years.

What are the Common Reasons for Drivers to Flee from the Scene?

Whether you were the negligent party or not, fleeing the scene is a crime on its own under the hit-and-run statute. Sometimes, drivers try to run away before the law enforcers arrive because they were committing other crimes. At other times, one leaves because they weren’t sure of what to do, and a hit-and-run defense lawyer can help with such arguments.

The common reasons include:

  • The driver does not want the police to detect that they are carrying contraband materials or illegal drugs.
  • The person is driving a borrowed or stolen car and does not want to bear the responsibility.
  • The driver does not have insurance and knows that they cannot afford to pay for the damages out-of-pocket.
  • The driver thinks that they can avoid a civil lawsuit by running away from authorities – while the truth is, whether they stay or leave, they can still face the exact charges.
  • The person knows that they are driving without a valid drivers’ license and decide to flee to avoid being detected by police. 
  • The driver had consumed substances before driving and wants to avoid the charge of driving while intoxicated.
  • The driver was not at fault for the accident and did not feel the need to stop since someone else was negligent and caused the accident.

How Will the Police Identify the Driver that Left the Scene?

The law enforcers sometimes have a difficult time finding the driver that left the scene of the crash. However, in-depth investigation can uncover the identity of the driver and their vehicle that left illegally. A review of any available surveillance or video camera footage, interviews of eyewitnesses, and a look at physical evidence can help significantly.

The paint transfers left with the car that remained at the scene can give the police information like the color of your vehicle. They may also look at the car parts that broke and remained at the scene and look out for cars with missing parts like taillights. A warrant of arrest might be issued against you if the law enforcers realize that you actually fled the scene.

Legal Counsel Protecting Your Rights

Whether you contributed to the accident or not, we cannot underestimate its impact on you psychologically. A criminal defense lawyer in Fairfax, VA, can give you the assurance that you need to go through the mixed emotions and the legal tussle.

Trust your criminal defense team with all the facts of the incident, and we will tell you the possibilities of the case and how the best defense strategy to implement. Talk to attorney Scott C. Nolan, PLLC today at (703) 223-8883 if you fled the scene of a car accident in Fairfax, VA.