Fleeing an Accident Scene Can Have Serious Implications of Its Own
The New York Times recently chronicled the efforts of Texas lawmakers to increase penalties for hit-and-run drivers, in the hopes of creating a greater incentive for at-fault drivers to remain at the scene of a serious crash.
Our D.C. DUI defense attorneys know that penalties here for hit-and-run, also known as leaving after colliding, are fairly serious as it is.
D.C. Code 50-2201.05 holds that anytime a motorist injures another person or causes substantial property damage, he or she is required to stay at the scene to provide assistance. Usually, that means you need to call for help if the other party is injured. You are required to immediately report the incident to police. You are also obligated to provide your name and address to either the injured party or another person who is collecting that information on the injured party’s behalf.
In the case of property damage, you are required to give this same information to the property owner. If the person isn’t present, you are required to report it immediately to the police.
In the case of a first-offense hit-and-run involving solely substantial property damage, maximum imprisonment is a month in jail and a $100 fine. However, that penalty is significantly increased when the accident involves serious injury to another. In that case, the maximum penalty is 6 months in jail and/or a $500 fine.
Meanwhile, the penalties for negligent homicide or manslaughter involve prison terms of somewhere between 5 and 30 years. Prosecutors need not necessarily prove that you were intoxicated to pursue these charges. What they will need to show is that you failed to use an appropriate degree of caution or care in your actions, which ultimately led to the death of another.
Hit-and-run penalties are tacked on in addition to whatever charge you would have otherwise faced.
What Texas and other jurisdictions are attempting to do is make hit-and-run a major felony in its own right. Beginning in September, individuals who flee the scene of a fatal accident will be subject to a second-degree felony charge, punishable by up to 20 years in prison – the exact same as what they would face for intoxicated manslaughter. Historically, the charge was already a third-degree felony, carrying a maximum of 10 years behind bars.
Another new law makes failure to stop and render aid following an injury-causing crash punishable by up to 10 years.
Although this measure only affects drivers in Texas, what concerns us is the Times’ assertion that the bills passed “easily with bipartisan support.” The case that spurred this change was the 2011 hit-and-run death of a 30-year-old woman, reportedly caused by a former legislative aid. The aid was reportedly arrested the morning after the accident on charges of intoxication manslaughter, manslaughter, negligent homicide and failure to stop and render aid.
The defendant told investigators she did not realize she had struck the victim. Prosecutors said it was tough to prove she was drunk when her blood-alcohol levels couldn’t be tested until the following morning. She was ultimately convicted only of negligent homicide – which still carried a maximum five-year prison term.
If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC at 202-596-5716.