What are the legal consequences of leaving the scene of an accident in New York State?
Hit and run accidents are illegal in all 50 states, but penalties and specific aspects of the law may differ from state-to-state. Generally speaking, a hit and run is defined as an accident that involves a motor vehicle driver leaving the scene without waiting for the police to arrive and without reporting the accident to the authorities or rendering assistance to anyone injured at the scene. A hit and run is said to occur whether the driver collides with a pedestrian, another vehicle, or a fixed object, whether or not the accident was that driver's fault. If you have been accused of, or arrested for, leaving the scene of an accident, you should consult with a trustworthy criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to make sure your rights are appropriately defended.
What the Law Demands
In any accident in which the driver of a motor vehicle knows, or should have known, that his or her vehicle has caused damage to another person or to property of another person (including a pet, which is legally considered property), he or she is required to stop, exchange license and insurance information if the other person is present, and administer aid if necessary. If the other person is not present, the person whose car inflicted the damage is required to notify the nearest police or judicial officer as quickly as possible, assuming he or she is physically able to do so, or to leave written notification at the site of vehicle or other property damage.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident in New York State
Leaving the scene of an accident in New York State constitutes a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of up to $250 or a sentence of up to 15 days of imprisonment, or both. If the defendant has previously been convicted of a similar violation, or if the current accident involves personal injury, he or she is deemed to have committed a class E felony, punishable by a fine of between $1,000 and 2,500 and other legal penalties. If the person commits and subsequent violation, it shall constitute a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of between $500 and $1,000 in addition to other legal penalties. If the accident results in a death, it is defined as a class D felony punishable by a fine of between $2,000 and $5,000 in addition to any other legal penalties.
Possible Defenses for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
There are exceptions, in which leaving the circumstances surrounding the scene of an accident are considered defensible. These include:
- If the driver leaves to get medical or other assistance
- If the driver is incapacitated and unable to give information or assist
- If the driver is believably unaware that he or she hit anything or anyone
- If only property has been damaged and the driver has left appropriate written contact information in plain sight
- If the site of the accident could endanger the life of the driver (such as a toxic spill)
It should be noted that witnesses are permitted to leave the scene of an accident without legal consequences.
If you have been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, you should contact a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Ianniello Anderson we serve clients in Albany, Clifton Park, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, Troy, and the entire Northeastern NY areas with vigor and dedication. We can be reached at (518) 350.7755.