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.
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.