Leaving the scene of an accident, usually known as a “hit and run,” is a serious crime. Because car accidents can be quite dangerous, and tracking down the responsible parties is incredibly difficult if they leave the scene, most states criminalize leaving the scene of an accident without providing your personal information to the other parties.
In New Jersey, this can mean jail time, large fines, and even license suspensions – especially if the hit and run involves driving while intoxicated (DWI). If you’re facing a hit and run charge in Atlantic City, get a knowledgeable hit and run attorney on your side who can help you beat the charges. Contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today for a free consultation about your case by calling (609) 616-4956.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident Crime Definition in Atlantic County
Despite the fact that leaving the scene of an accident is considered a traffic offense, not a criminal offense, it still has criminal penalties and can result in jail time. Because of this, it is important to understand what exactly counts as a hit and run. If your conduct falls outside of this definition, then a criminal defense attorney can help get your case dropped.
First, whether the accident involved injury, damage to another car on the road, or damage to a parked vehicle (or other property), hit and run laws only cover accidents that the driver knew they were involved in. That does not cover accidents that they think they might have been involved in or thought they were involved in, but actually knew of. There is an inference, though, that the driver knows of any accident that involved injury, death, or property damage over $250. This can be overturned, though, with actual proof that the driver did not know of the accident.
N.J.S.A. 39:4-129 is where the hit and run statute is located in New Jersey’s law books, and it gives specific instructions for what a driver must do after an accident. First, to avoid a hit and run charge, you must stop your car as close as you safely can to the scene of the crash, without blocking traffic. You must also give certain information to others involved in the crash, including pedestrians or other drivers involved in the accident, plus witnesses who ask for it and police. The information you must provide is:
- Your name
- Your address
- You must show your driver’s license
- You must show your vehicle’s registration
Even if you stop, you could technically be held in violation of this law if you refuse to give this information.
The final requirement is to render “reasonable assistance” to people injured in the accident. The law says this means “the carrying of that person to a hospital,” but calling an ambulance should be sufficient – you do not need to physically drive them there yourself.
Since all of these tasks are required after an accident, technically, forgetting any of them could be considered a hit and run. It seems unlikely, though, that a judge or prosecutor would go forward with a case where the driver stopped, but failed to give one piece of information. Any partial completion of these requirements should aid in your defense, or get charges reduced – so make sure to discuss this with your attorney.
What Happens Next If You Were in a Hit and Run Accident in Atlantic County?
The first thing you should do after you are charged with a hit and run is contact a lawyer. You need to know your options and the strength of your case. Ultimately, the goal of a good defense attorney is to keep you out of jail. When it comes to hit and runs, there are legal gray areas that your lawyer can use to try and keep you out of jail and get your charges dropped or reduced.
For instance, if the driver honestly did not know about the accident, they cannot be convicted under the law, as written. This is especially plausible in cases with slight property damage.
The punishments for a hit and run in New Jersey are quite serious. In a case that involves death or injury, you face the potential for a fine of $2,500 to $5,000. If someone other than you was injured, you could even face 180 days in jail. For a case where there was only property damage, whether it was another car or unattended property, you face the possibility of a $200 to $400 and up to 30 days in jail for a first offense. For any subsequent offense, you face $400 to $600 fines, plus 30 to 90 days in jail.
Contact an Experienced Atlantic City Hit and Run Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a hit and run in Atlantic City, talk to an experienced Atlantic City defense attorney. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych provide experienced legal advice and represent hit and run defendants in New Jersey. For a free, confidential, no-obligations consultation, call (609) 616-4956, or contact us online.