If you have been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, you can be facing both a criminal charge and a serious motor vehicle violation. While any charge of leaving the scene of an accident can result in serious fines and potential prison sentences, if you ae charged with leaving the scene of an accident when there has been a death involved you could potentially be facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, as well as decades in prison.
If you are facing serious criminal charges in Cape May, Wildwood, Atlantic City, Northfield, or elsewhere in Atlantic County or Cape May County the experienced criminal defense lawyers of the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can fight for to protect your freedom and reputation. To schedule a private, confidential initial consultation call our firm at (609) 616-4956 today.
Charges for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Accidents are scary events in our lives, and the roads in New Jersey are notorious for being littered with hazards that can cause accidents. Many people report a sense of panic and urge to flee the scene when they have been involved in an accident. While this may be a natural instinct, if you have been involved in an accident and subsequently flee the scene you can be charged either criminally or under the New Jersey Motor Vehicle code, or both.
Under the New Jersey Criminal Code section N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5.1, the statute provides that:
A motor vehicle operator who knows he is involved in an accident and knowingly leaves the scene of that accident under circumstances that violate the provisions of R.S.39:4-129 shall be guilty of a crime of the second degree if the accident results in the death of another person.
If the evidence so warrants, nothing in this section shall be deemed to preclude an indictment and conviction for aggravated manslaughter under the provisions of N.J.S.2C:11-4 or vehicular homicide under the provisions of N.J.S.2C:11-5.
Notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.2C:1-8 or any other provisions of law, a conviction arising under this section shall not merge with a conviction for aggravated manslaughter under the provisions of N.J.S.2C:11-4 or for vehicular homicide under the provisions of N.J.S.2C:11-5 and a separate sentence shall be imposed upon each such conviction.
Notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.2C:44-5 or any other provisions of law, when the court imposes multiple sentences of imprisonment for more than one offense, those sentences shall run consecutively.
For the purposes of this section, neither knowledge of the death nor knowledge of the violation are elements of the offense and it shall not be a defense that the operator of the motor vehicle was unaware of the death or of the provisions of R.S.39:4-129.
Motor Vehicle Charge for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Leaving the scene of an accident is a motor vehicle violation located in the New Jersey Motor Vehicles laws at N.J.S.A. 39:4-129. The statute provides: (a) The driver of any vehicle, knowingly involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close thereto as possible but shall then forthwith return to and in every event shall remain at the scene until he has fulfilled the requirements of subsection (c) of this section.
What are the Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident?
If you were involved in an accident and after the fact left the scene before police officers arrived and or you exchanged the appropriate information with the other driver, then you may be charged either criminally or under the motor vehicle code or both. Under the New Jersey Criminal Code, leaving the scene of an accident can be charged as either a second or third-degree crime, each resulting in their own sentences. The New Jersey law which prohibits Leaving the Scene of an Accident as a motor vehicle offense is separated by several subsections which provides different fines and penalties for different circumstances. These circumstances are when:
(1) the accident results in an injury or death to any person
(2) the accident results in damage to a vehicle, including his own vehicle, or other property which is attended by any person and
(3) the accident is with an unattended vehicle or other property.
If you are convicted under the criminal code or the motor vehicle code, you can potentially face serious sentences including:
- Prison: Since the Criminal Statute provides that a person may be tried and convicted as either a second or third-degree crime the judge is free to impose the following prison sentences.
Second Degree – If the accident resulted in the death of another motorist, then the court may impose a prison sentence between five years and 10 years
Third Degree – if the accident results in the serious bodily injury of another and upon conviction thereof, a person may be sentenced between 3 and 5 years in New Jersey State prison. Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime of the third degree The presumption of imprisonment, which typically applies to third-degree crimes, set forth in N.J.S.2C:44-1 shall not apply to persons convicted of Leaving the scene of an accident in New Jersey. See 2C:12-1.1.
- Traffic: Under the New Jersey Traffic Code, a person may potentially face the following prison sentences:
For property damage only – a person who is convicted of leaving the scene of an accident where there is only property damage will face a minimum stay in prison of 30 days and a maximum of 90 days.
Where there is injury or death – up to 180 days in jail,
Unattended property – a person who is convicted of leaving the scene of an accident where there is only property damage and the property is unattended will face a minimum stay in prison of 30 days and a maximum of 90 days.
- Monetary Fines:
A person who has been convicted of an offense may be sentenced to pay a fine, to make restitution, or both, such fine not to exceed:
• (1) $200,000.00 when the conviction is of a crime of the first degree;
• (2) $150,000.00 when the conviction is of a crime of the second degree;
• (1) $15,000.00 when the conviction is of a crime of the third degree;
• (2) $10,000.00 when the conviction is of a crime of the fourth degree;
• $1,000.00, when the conviction is of a disorderly persons offense;
• $500.00, when the conviction is of a petty disorderly persons offense;
Injury or death to any person – If you are convicted of or plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident which results in injury or death to any person, you shall be fined not less than $2,500 nor more than $5,000.
Damage to vehicle or property – If you are convicted of or plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident which results in damage to a vehicle or other property, you shall be fined not less than $200 nor more than $400.
damage to an unattended vehicle or other property – You shall be fined not less than $200 nor more than $400, for a subsequent offense you shall be fined not less than $400 nor more than $600
• Driver’s license suspension: As with any other offense where a motor vehicle was used, the Sentencing Judge has the authority to postpone, suspend, or revoke for a period not to exceed two years the driver’s license, registration certificate, or both of any person convicted of a crime, disorderly persons offense, or petty disorderly persons offense. 2C:43-2(c).
• Points: Leaving the Scene of an Accident- N.J.S.A. 39:4-129 is a violation listed in the N.J.S.A. Point Schedule. The Motor Vehicle Commission will add 8 points to your New Jersey Driving record if the accident resulted in personal injury and 2 points if the accident did not result in personal injury.
• Insurance premiums: In addition, if you hold a New Jersey automotive insurance policy, your automobile insurance company will add 9 points to your “insurance eligibility points” if the accident results in a personal injury and 2 points if there is no personal injury.
• Surcharges by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission: Surcharges are fines assessed by Motor Vehicle Commission (in addition to everything else) on an annual basis for drivers who have earned excessive points or committed specific violations. This is not one of those specific violations, however, if you accumulate 6 or more points within a three years from our last violation, you will receive a $150 surcharge plus $25 for each additional point.
When you are facing such serious penalties you cannot trust just anyone to provide you with competent criminal defense. You need a team of experienced attorneys who have a broad range of experience defending those accused of crimes in New Jersey.
Contact an Atlantic City Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you are facing these serious charges you need a criminal defense team who is both dedicated and aggressive. The attorneys at the Zarych Law Firm understand how serious these charges are and know how to protect your rights. To schedule a private, confidential initial consultation call our firm at (609) 616-4956 today.