Leaving or fleeing an accident scene is against the law in the State of New York. If you’re charged with leaving the scene of an accident in Nassau County, Suffolk County, or in New York City, contact a Nassau County criminal defense lawyer at once.
Why would you leave an accident scene? Maybe you were worried about being arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Maybe you didn’t see any vehicle damage, there were no injuries, and you were late for work. Maybe you were in a stolen car or driving without a license.
Motive doesn’t matter. If you leave an accident scene where there’s property damage, injuries, or a fatality, understand that the police in Nassau County – and any other New York jurisdiction – will thoroughly investigate the incident and will probably charge you with a crime.
What then should you do if you’re involved in a traffic collision? What constitutes leaving the scene, and what penalties can you face if you’re convicted on Long Island or anywhere in the state? If you’ll keep reading, those questions are about to be answered.
When An Accident Happens
If you’re a driver who is involved in a traffic collision in Nassau County – or anywhere in the state – and you are not incapacitated or unconscious – take these steps after the accident:
- Immediately call for medical attention and treatment. Even if you don’t feel injured, have a medical examination within the first 24 hours after the accident.
- If it’s possible, move your vehicle so that it isn’t obstructing traffic.
- Call the police or ensure that someone else has made that call.
- Be cooperative when the police arrive, but do not confess any fault.
What Constitutes Leaving the Scene?
Unless you’re being rushed to a hospital, stay at the accident scene. Exchange names, addresses, telephone numbers, driver’s license numbers, and insurance details with the other motorist or motorists.
On Long Island and in the State of New York, you will probably be charged for leaving the scene if:
- You flee from an accident scene, even if the other driver was obviously at fault.
- You flee from a collision with a building, a fence, a parked car, or any other property.
- You flee from an accident you caused, even if you were not in the actual collision.
If You’re Convicted, What Penalties May You Expect?
Penalties for leaving the scene convictions will depend on the defendant’s previous convictions (if any) and whether property damage, injury, or death occurred. If you caused damage to property but no one was killed or injured, the offense is a traffic infraction.
Convictions are punished with a fine of up to $250 and/or up to fifteen days in jail. Three driver violation points will also be attached to your license.
However, if you leave a crash scene where someone has been injured because you do not want to be charged with driving while intoxicated, if you are later apprehended, a conviction on a DWI-related leaving the scene charge could put you in jail or prison.
Not summoning medical help for someone who’s been injured is penalized harshly by the New York criminal courts. Leaving the scene of an accident with injuries – whether or not alcohol was involved – may be penalized with up to a year in jail.
However, fleeing the scene of a traffic accident that involves a serious physical injury or death can trigger a felony charge that may be penalized upon conviction with up to seven years in prison.
Why is Leaving the Scene Treated So Seriously?
Prosecutors typically presume in these cases that a defendant fled from the scene of an accident to keep from being accused of an even more serious crime such as auto theft or DWI. That’s why leaving an accident scene is prosecuted so aggressively in New York and on Long Island.
If you did not know that a crash happened, you were confused, or if you’ve been wrongly charged with leaving the scene and you are not guilty, you must be defended by a Nassau County hit-and-run attorney who will ensure that what actually happened is told accurately and understood completely.
For prosecutors, demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt that someone fled an accident scene may not be easy. The state may have to count on eyewitnesses and circumstantial evidence.
However, even when the evidence against a defendant is convincing, a conviction doesn’t absolutely mean that the maximum sentence will be imposed. For a first offense, your lawyer can perhaps negotiate for a sentence that imposes probation instead of prison or jail time.
How Will Your Attorney Fight a Leaving the Scene Charge?
In a leaving the scene case, a Long Island criminal defense lawyer may offer one of these defenses on your behalf:
- You weren’t involved at all. This can happen when a witness writes down a fleeing motorist’s license plate number and gets it wrong.
- You did not leave intentionally. This might happen if, for instance, a well-meaning bystander pushes you into a car and transports you to the hospital while you’re in shock. Concussion victims sometimes wander off simply because they’re dazed and confused.
- You did not realize there were injuries or property damage. To convict you of leaving the scene, you must have known that a collision occurred and that death, injury, or damage to property was the result – and still, you left the scene of the accident.
What Will the Court Consider?
A New York court will ask these questions and consider the answers when determining the result of your leaving the scene case:
- Were injuries suffered in the collision? If so, what kind of injuries?
- Were you impaired by drugs and/or alcohol when the accident happened?
- Have you had any previous convictions?
- Did you surrender voluntarily to the police?
- What’s on your driving history?
- Do you have a commercial driver’s license?
Will your automobile insurance cover the damages?
What were the weather and road conditions when the accident happened?
If You’re Charged With Leaving the Scene
Whether or not you’re innocent, if you’re charged with any crime, exercise your legal rights. Be polite, admit to nothing, and say only that you are exercising your right to remain silent and you would like to speak to your attorney.
If you’re charged with leaving an accident scene, obtain legal help at once. The right Nassau County criminal defense lawyer will protect your rights and fight effectively for the best possible outcome on your behalf.