Leaving the scene of an accident can result in drastic legal penalties and open you up to civil liability. Arizona hit-and-run laws state that drivers have a duty to stay at the scene of an accident to render reasonable assistance and exchange contact and insurance information. Failure to do this can result in criminal charges and can even be a felony offense.
The Ybarra Maldonado Law Group team has a comprehensive understanding of Arizona law, and we can help you fight these charges. Our firm has served the communities in and around Phoenix, Arizona for more than a decade. We provide innovative and aggressive representation for those in our community who need it most. For more information about how we can help, call our team today at (602) 910-4040 to schedule a consultation.
What Is a Hit and Run Accident?
Fleeing the scene of a car accident is also known as a hit-and-run accident. After any kind of motor vehicle accident, drivers have a legal duty to immediately stop and render reasonable assistance to any injured person if needed. When a driver leaves the scene of an accident, they can face criminal charges–even if they did not cause the accident.
Types of Arizona Hit and Run Accidents
Under ARS § 28-663, drivers have a duty to stay at the scene of an accident and provide assistance and information. Not all hit-and-run cases result in physical injury or property damage, but drivers have a duty to provide their name, contact information, insurance information, and vehicle registration number. Leaving the scene of an accident can result in prison time, fines, and other consequences.
Misdemeanor Hit and Run Charges
Under Arizona law, a hit and run offense could result in a misdemeanor charge if the accident did not result in injury or death. If the vehicle involved in the accident was an unattended parked car, drivers have a responsibility to stop and leave their contact information for the owner of the vehicle. Failure to leave contact information after a property damage-only accident can result in a Class 1 misdemeanor charge.
Felony Hit and Run Charges
Fleeing the scene of an accident involving bodily injury or death is a felony offense in Arizona. The charges for this crime vary based on the details of the accident, like the extent of the injury and which driver caused the accident. Under ARS § 28-661, drivers who flee the scene of the accident after causing an accident that results in serious injury or death face a Class 2 felony. Drivers who leave but did not cause the accident face a Class 3 felony charge. Drivers who leave the scene of an accident that resulted in minor or non-serious injury face a Class 5 felony charge. Failing to provide reasonable assistance after an accident can result in a Class 6 felony charge.
Penalties for Leaving an Accident Scene in Arizona
Leaving the scene of an accident without exchanging information can result in harsh penalties, even if you didn’t cause the accident. Misdemeanor hit-and-run charges can be pursued if a driver causes property damage, but no injuries. If the accident involves bodily injury or death, the consequences of leaving the scene of the accident are much more severe.
Causing and leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in property damage can result in a Class 1 misdemeanor. A Class 1 misdemeanor can result in up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, and a loss of driving privileges for a year. The judge can also order mandatory drug/alcohol screening before license reinstatement.
Leaving the scene of an accident involving serious injury or death can result in a Class 2 felony charge. A Class 2 felony can result in up to 12.5 years in prison and having your license revoked for 10 years. If you have previous felonies in your criminal history, you can face up to 35 years in prison.
Even if you didn’t cause the accident but still leave an accident involving serious injury or death, you can be charged with a Class 3 felony. A Class 3 felony charge can result in up to 8.75 years in prison and losing your license for five years.
Leaving an accident scene involving a non-serious injury can result in a Class 5 felony charge. This can result in up to 2.5 years in prison and 3 years without a driver’s license. The loss of driving privileges starts after incarceration.
Prison time and loss of driving privileges aren’t the only penalties for a felony hit-and-run charge. Felony convictions can have a dramatic impact on your life. Convicted felons often have a harder time renting, getting an education, and getting gainful employment opportunities. Having a felony on your record can also drastically increase the penalty for any future charges or convictions.
If someone causes severe property damage during a hit and run, they can be charged under the ARS criminal damage statute.
Jail time and fines aren’t the only penalties that can result from leaving the scene of an accident. If your car insurance company has reason to believe you fled the scene of an accident or failed to report it, it can cancel your policy without notice. This can leave you financially liable for all damages caused by a motor vehicle accident. If your insurance company keeps your policy intact, you could still face increased premiums because of your driving record.
Common Defenses to Arizona Hit and Run Charges
If you or a loved one is facing hit and run charges in Arizona, you need an experienced legal defense team by your side. At Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, we can fight to get your charges reduced, dismissed, or dropped. Below we’ve outlined some common defenses to hit-and-run charges.
No Injury/No Serious Injury
For a successful felony prosecution, the prosecution must prove that the accident resulted in a serious or permanent injury. An experienced criminal defense team can challenge the existence and extent of the alleged injury. In some cases, injuries can present hours or even days after the accident. If the alleged victim had no signs of injury at the scene of the accident, you shouldn’t be charged with a felony for not providing assistance.
Mistake of Fact
Arizona roads rank among the worst in the nation. You may not have even realized you hit something. A minor collision can reasonably be attributed to poor road conditions, road debris, or an animal. Sometimes slight collisions don’t cause any damage at all. In these scenarios, it’s reasonable that a driver would continue on their way and not stop.
In some situations, leaving the scene of an accident can be necessary for your personal safety. Preserving life and safety is more important than a legal obligation. A driver may not feel comfortable stopping at the scene of the accident and waiting for law enforcement. Road rage, robbery, and sexual assault are all reasonable fears that could cause you to leave the scene of an accident.
Arizona Hit and Run Defense Attorney at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group Can Help
Car accidents can cost a pretty penny, but the actions you take immediately after a car accident can result in severe penalties. Even a misdemeanor charge can lead to jail time, fines, and driver’s license suspension. Facing any kind of criminal charge can be an overwhelming and stressful experience. We know the consequences of a criminal conviction, and our criminal defense team is ready to help you.
The criminal defense lawyers at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group are ready to support you in your hit-and-run case. To schedule a consultation with an experienced hit-and-run defense attorney, call us today at (602) 910-4040.