NJ Leaving Scene of an Accident Lawyer
A person who is involved in a car accident probably understands that in the majority of cases, they have an obligation to stop their vehicle and report the car accident to the police. However, when the person was at fault for the accident and fears repercussions, was drunk at the time of crash, or is uninsured or does not have a valid driver’s license, they may be afraid of the consequences of causing a crash, and therefore may flee the scene. In some cases (such as cases involving driving while impaired), a driver may not even be unaware that they were in an accident and may not think to stop and report the accident as such. Regardless of the reason, leaving the scene of an accident is against the law, and triggers significant penalties.
If you have been charged with leaving the scene of an accident it is therefore important that your retain a skilled lawyer. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall possess the know how you require in order to protect against a conviction. We have over 200 years of experience that includes significant time serving as prosecutors. To take advantage of a free consultation with an attorney on our defend team, call us 24/7 at 877-450-8301.
New Jersey Law and Leaving the Scene of an Accident
In accordance with N.J.S.A 39:4-129, a person who is involved in an accident is required under the law to stop their vehicle and return to, or remain at, the accident scene. The law explains that this requirement is necessary when the accident results in injury or death to any person, or when the accident results in damage to a vehicle. A person who is involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or property damage is not just required to stop their vehicle and remain at the scene of the accident, but is further legally required to provide their:
- License; and
- Registration certificate.
The above information must be provided to a responding law enforcement officer, as well as to the driver of the other vehicle any any other parties who suffered bodily injury or property damage and any witnesses to the accident. If no police officer arrives at the accident scene, and the other parties to whom information must be legally represented are unable to receive such information (i.e. prevented by serious injury), then the driver has a legal obligation to travel to the nearest police department office and submit an accident report – the failure to do this is called failure to report. If a driver hits a vehicle whose owner cannot be located (i.e. hitting a parked car), then the driver who caused the accident must leave a note on the hit vehicle with the driver’s name and address. Essentially, it is against the law to cause damage or injury via vehicle and then fail to provide a means for the victim of the crash to recover compensation for losses.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Leaving the scene of an accident, as described above, is against the law and will be penalized as such. The penalties are:
- Leaving the scene of an accident that results in bodily injury or death: $2,500 to $5,000 fine, or imprisonment of 180 days, or both, and forfeiture of privilege to operate a vehicle on New Jersey’s highways for a period of one year. For a subsequent offense, the forfeiture is indefinite.
- Leaving the scene of an accident that results in property damage: $200 to 400 fine, or imprisonment of up to 30 days, or both, and a license suspension of six months. For a subsequent offense, the fine increases to between $400 and $600, the imprisonment to a period of not less than 30 days, and the license suspension to one year.
A driver will also be assessed points on their driving record for the failure to remain at the scene of an accident that results in bodily injury or property damage. Points can accumulate to the degree where a driver faces license suspension, and can also result in a driver’s premiums being increased as well.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident that Results in Serious Bodily Injury
If an accident results in bodily injury that is characterized as “serious,” there is a duty to remain at the scene or face a felony criminal offense under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1. A serious bodily injury under New Jersey law is one that results in permanent disfigurement, significant risk of death, loss of bodily function, significant impairment of bodily function, loss of organ function, or impairment of organ function. If a person leaves the scene of an accident that results in serious bodily injury, they have committed a crime of the fourth degree that carries up to 18 months in state prison and a $10,000 fine. It is also common for an assault by auto or aggravated assault charge to be filed if the motorist is accused of being at fault for the accident.
Charged with Leaving Scene of an Accident – What Happens Next?
If you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident, you will have charges formally brought against you and will have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty to such charges.
Depending upon the level of offense with which you are charged and the associated penalty, pleading “not guilty” may be within your best interest. When you enter a plea of not guilty, you then have the opportunity to defend yourself against such charges. During this process, you have the right to competent professional legal representation. Our attorneys at the law offices of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall will review your case to determine your best options for moving forward.
If you plead not guilty, the prosecution will be tasked with proving that you left the scene of an accident, and therefore should be guilty of charges. In order to secure a guilty verdict, the prosecution must prove that: (1) the defendant was operating a motor vehicle; (2) that was involved in a crash; (3) that the defendant knew or reasonably should have been aware of; and (4) that the defendant left the scene.
The prosecution may rely on myriad evidence types to prove the above and secure a conviction, such as evidence of damage to a defendant’s vehicle, witness testimony, proof of defendant injury (which was likely sustained in a car crash), video footage, and more. For the defendant, working with an experienced attorney is critical at this point; an attorney can assist in developing a strong defense and taking action to file the appropriate motions. If the prosecution fails to obtain the proper evidence against you, the defendant, within a reasonable amount of time – and requests a postponement as such – an attorney can bring up the issue of a breach of your constitutional right to a speedy trial. An attorney can further negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution, such as reducing a charge of leaving the scene of an accident to a failure to report charge.
Keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations for bringing forth a charge of leaving scene of an accident against a defendant in New Jersey. This means that unless the prosecution brings forth charges against you within a specified amount of time, you may be legally protected from charges. The statute of limitations which protects you from charges is another reason why hiring an attorney is a smart thing to do.
What to Do if Charged with Leaving Scene of an Accident
Having charges pressed against you for leaving the scene of an accident can be scary. And if you are accused of leaving an accident scene where another person sustained serious bodily injury, there is a lot on the line; you could be put in jail, be liable for hundreds of dollars’ worth of fines, have your license revoked, and have a permanent mark on your criminal record, which could affect your future opportunities. A conviction in criminal court may also be used of evidence for liability in civil court.
If you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident, do not make the mistake of guaranteeing that the charge becomes a conviction by failing to invoke the services of an experienced NJ traffic offenses attorney. At The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, we work hard to analyze your case, gather evidence, and advise you of your options. The goal of our lawyers is to secure the best possible outcome and this typically includes escaping a conviction for leaving the scene of an accident.
What To Do In Case Of A Serious Car Accident (39:4-129a)
If you’re involved in an accident that results in a serious bodily injury or a death to anyone, you should stop closest to the scene as possible without blocking more traffic than necessary. You have to remain at the scene until you’ve met all the requirements detailed further below.
If you don’t follow these steps, the penalties can be severe, including a fine between $2,500 and $5,000, a prison term of 180 days, or both. The prison term for a criminal offense only applies if the accident caused injury or death. In addition, you’ll lose your driving privileges for at least one year for the first offense. A subsequent offense leads to a permanent loss of driving privileges in New Jersey.
Leaving the scene of an accident resulting in personal injury also results in eight points on your license in New Jersey. However, two points are assessed if you leave the scene of an accident where there is no personal injury.
What To Do In Case Of A Minor Accident (39:4-129b)
If an accident resulting in damage to any vehicle or other property doesn’t cause any personal injury, you still need to stop immediately at the scene without unnecessarily blocking traffic. The penalties for not complying are less severe than in a serious accident, but they can still include a fine of $200-$400, up to 30 days in prison, or both. Repeat offenders face harsher penalties.
Also, you’ll lose your right to drive in New Jersey for six months for the first offense, and for a year if you do it again.
Sharing Your Information And Offering Help (39:4-129c)
After any accident involving others, you need to provide your name, address, driver’s license, and vehicle registration certificate to other parties involved or a police officer. You also need to offer reasonable help to those who are injured, which could include taking them to a hospital.
If everyone else who is part of the accident is too injured to receive your information, and no police officer is present, you should report the accident to the local police department or the State Police.
Unattended Vehicles And Property (39:4-129d)
If you hit an unattended vehicle or other property, you should stop immediately and try to find and inform the owner. If you can’t find the owner, you should leave a written notice with your details on the vehicle or property. If that’s not possible, notify the local or state police. Failing to do so results in penalties similar to those for minor accidents.
Accident Knowledge And Evidence Suppression (39:4-129e)
The law assumes that you’re aware if you’re involved in an accident that causes an injury, death, or significant property damage. Not knowing about the injury or damage isn’t a defense as long as you knew there was an accident.
There’s also an assumption that if a vehicle is involved in an accident, the registered owner was the driver. Exceptions apply for rental or leased vehicles.
Finally, hiding evidence or the identity of a person involved in an accident can result in a fine of $250-$1,000.
Stay safe on the roads, but if you find yourself in an accident, remember to follow these guidelines to stay on the right side of the law.
Contact Our Experienced Leaving the Scene of an Accident Lawyers
Do not wait to take action if you have been charged – contact our lawyers now at 877-450-8301 for a free consultation. An attorney with the tools necessary to protect you against a guilty finding are available to assist you 24/7.