Causing a car accident is not, in itself, a crime. Of course, car accidents rarely happen without someone being at fault, and you could receive tickets for things like running a red light, speeding, or drunk driving before an accident. If you cause property damage, the property owner may file an insurance claim or a civil lawsuit against you, but there are also opportunities for you to face criminal charges for this damage.
If you were charged with a criminal offense for causing property damage in a car accident or leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our Atlantic City car accident with property damage lawyers represent defendants accused of crimes involving property damage with a car. To schedule a free legal consultation on your case, contact our law offices today at (609) 625-3006.
Crimes for Causing Property Damage with a Car in New Jersey
Depending on the circumstances of how the accident occurred and how recklessly you were driving before the accident, you could face criminal charges or serious traffic citations for the damage you caused. How you act after the crash can also lead to serious charges. If you intentionally hit property or a person with your car, you may even face charges for destruction of property or assault. Our attorneys explain some of these potential charges:
If you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol when you caused a car accident, you could be arrested and charged with DWI (driving while intoxicated). New Jersey’s DWI offense under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50 does not have distinct offenses for “DUI causing property damage” or “DUI causing injury,” but these factors can lead to other offenses discussed below. In addition, the fact that you did cause property damage can be used to prove you were driving under the influence and to increase the penalties you face at sentencing.
Reckless Driving and Other Traffic Offenses
If you cause an accident that damages property or hurts someone else because you were driving dangerously or breaking the law, you will likely face tickets or charges for serious traffic offenses. Reckless driving is one of the most severe driving charges you can face, and it leads to fines and jail time. Less dangerous driving can still lead to careless driving tickets or other tickets for speeding, running a red light, or other traffic offenses that took place before the accident.
Criminal Mischief and Destruction of Property
Destroying someone else’s property can lead to charges for “criminal mischief,” also commonly known as destruction of property. The statute for criminal mischief charges under N.J.S.A. § 2C:17-3 requires that the destruction is done on purpose or “knowingly,” so these charges should not apply in cases of true accidents or accidents where you were merely negligent and caused the damage by accident. However, destroying a traffic sign or signal either “recklessly or negligently” can be a disorderly persons offense under N.J.S.A. § 2C:17-3. This means you could face a fine and potential jail time if you hit a traffic sign while driving without the proper care or skill.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident and Hit and Run
A hit and run is one of the most severe traffic offenses. Hit and run charges for leaving the scene of an accident are more severe if there is personal injury or death at the accident scene, but you can also face charges for leaving the scene of an accident with property damage only. N.J.S.A. § 39:4-129 makes it a crime to leave the scene of an accident if you knew there was property damage involved. If you leave the scene of the accident before you give your name, contact info, insurance info, and other information to the victims or property owners, you can face a fine and potential jail time, which increases for subsequent offenses. You can also lose your license for 6 months after a first offense or a year after a subsequent offense.
Driving Without Insurance
N.J.S.A. § 29:6B-1 requires every driver to carry insurance that can cover at least $15,000 per person, $30,000 per accident, and $5,000 for property damage. If you do not have insurance and are involved in an accident, you will likely face charges for driving without insurance. This offense carries a fine of $300-$1,000, plus community service. In addition, you can lose your license for one year. Repeat offenses carry much higher penalties including a fine up to $5,000, 14 days in jail, community service for 30 days, and a 2-year license suspension.
Assault by Auto and Vehicular Assault
If you drive recklessly or intentionally hit someone else with your car, you can face serious assault charges. This crime under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(c)(2) can carry penalties involving years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines, especially if the accident occurs while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This crime can only be charged if there was injury or near injury in addition to the property damage.
Call Our Atlantic City Criminal Defense Attorneys for Car Accidents with Property Damage
If you were driving recklessly or driving under the influence when you were involved in an accident, you could face severe charges and high criminal penalties. If you intentionally destroyed someone else’s property with your car, you can face more serious penalties. In any of these cases, consider taking your case to our Atlantic City car accident with property damage criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. To schedule a free consultation with our attorneys, call our law offices today at (609) 625-3006.