Facing a Hit-and-run Charge?
When you are in an accident with another vehicle or piece of property (i.e., fence or mailbox), the law requires that you exchange your contact information with the owner of the property. Failure to do so can result in a hit-and-run ticket.
Is This Really A Hit-and-run?
Striking another moving vehicle is the classic scenario. In that setting, most drivers understand that they are required to pull over and exchange information with the other driver. However, not all accidents occur with another moving vehicle. For instance, you may be charged with a hit-and-run if you strike a parked vehicle without leaving your contact information.
What surprises most drivers is that you may be charged with hit-and-run if you strike any property causing damage, even if you do not know who the owner is! In most cases, if you are unsure who the owner is, the best practice is to file an accident report with the police. Many drivers are reluctant to contact the police. Sometimes this is based on lack of time, only a minor amount of perceptible damage, or a general aversion to police contact. If you leave the scene of an accident, you risk being charged with this kind of offense.
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Understanding the Process
If you were in an accident, and didn't report it, the police will open an investigation. If you left your car at the scene of the accident, they have your car towed and brought to an impound lot. Under these circumstances the police agency will likely put a hold on your car at the impound lot, which means that the impound lot will not release the car until you obtain an official release from the police department. This is a common law enforcement strategy that can force you to physically go to the police department and acknowledge the accident.
Find a Hit-and-run Attorney First!
If you attempt to get the release from a police department without first retaining an experienced attorney, you will likely be caught off guard when you find yourself being questioned by a hit-and-run detective. If you are not prepared for this, these questions may make you very uncomfortable. However, many detectives are very experienced at getting the information they need while coming across as friendly and reasonable. Without even realizing it, after engaging in a quick, and seemingly pleasant conversation, you may have inadvertently established all the necessary evidence they need to support the hit-and-run charge.
If you have an attorney, and let the detective know you have an attorney, the detective should thereafter direct all questions and concerns to your attorney.
You may also need to speak with your insurance company about the accident. If you are worried about being charged in a hit-and-run accident, you may want to consider speaking to an attorney before making recorded statements with your insurance company. Sometimes, in a moment of panic, drivers are tempted to report an accident to their insurance company while omitting incriminating information. This can be very problematic because filing a false claim or making false statements could potentially lead to more serious charges.