Hit and Run Laws in Virginia: Understanding Your Legal Obligations
Being involved in a car accident is a stressful experience. However, the situation becomes even more complicated when one of the parties involved decides to leave the scene without providing their contact information or rendering aid to anyone who might be injured. This type of behavior, commonly known as a hit and run, is illegal in Virginia and can result in serious legal consequences.
What is a Hit and Run?
In Virginia, under Va Code § 46.2-894 , a hit and run occurs when a driver fails to stop their vehicle after being involved in an accident that results in property damage. It does not matter who is at fault, everyone involved must stop. According to Virginia law, the driver must stop as close to the scene of the accident as possible without obstructing traffic and must provide their name, address, driver's license number, and vehicle registration number to the other parties involved in the accident or to the police.
If someone is injured in the accident, the driver must provide reasonable assistance, such as calling an ambulance or taking the injured person to the hospital if it is safe to do so. Often times the police will charge anyone involved in an accident who leaves the scene before police arrive.
What if I hit a parked or unattended vehicle?
Virginia has a separate code section dealing with unattended property (such as parked vehicles). Under Va. Code § 46.2-896, the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident where unattended property is damage shall
- Make reasonable effort to find the owner or custodian of such property
- Shall report to the owner or custodian the information which the driver is required (name, address, driver's license number, and vehicle registration number)
- If the owner or custodian cannot be found, the driver shall leave a note or other sufficient information in a conspicuous place at the scene and shall report the accident in writing within 24 hours to the police
If, however, you are prevented from doing the above due to injuries sustained in the accident. You may wait until it's reasonably possible for you to do the above (such as find the owner or call the police).
What if I was the passenger in a car accident?
Under Va. Code § 46.2-897, If the person driving the car commits hit and run, any passengers sixteen years or older are obligated to contact the police and make a report within 24 hours.
Legal Consequences of a Hit and Run
The penalties for a hit and run in Virginia depend on the severity of the accident and the resulting damage. If the accident only involves property damage of less than $1000, the driver can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor and face up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.
If the accident results in injury or death or property damaged of $1000 or more, the driver can face more severe charges. If someone is injured or dies in a hit and run accident, the driver can be charged with a Class 5 felony and face up to 10 years in prison.
Defending Against a Hit and Run Charge
If you have been charged with a hit and run in Virginia, it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you build a strong defense. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, a skilled lawyer may be able to argue that you did not realize you were involved in an accident or that you left the scene for a legitimate reason, such as to seek medical attention.
It is also possible to negotiate a plea deal that reduces the severity of the charges or the potential penalties. However, it is important to work with a skilled Fairfax traffic lawyer who can help you navigate the legal system and protect your rights.
In conclusion, a hit and run is a serious criminal offense in Virginia, and drivers who leave the scene of an accident without providing their contact information or rendering aid can face severe legal consequences. If you have been charged with a hit and run, it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you build a strong defense and protect your rights.