After a car accident, you have a legal obligation to stop your car and exchange information with the other driver. The State of New Jersey has an interest in ensuring that people get the medical care and compensation they need for damage after an accident, so leaving the scene of an accident is a ticketable offense.
Even if there was no injury in the crash, you may still face a citation, a license suspension, and increased insurance premiums for leaving the scene of an accident with damage. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych’s Atlantic City defense attorneys for leaving the scene of an accident charges might be able to take your case and fight to get the citation dropped. To schedule a free consultation with our lawyers, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.
Is “Leaving the Scene” an Actual Crime in Atlantic County, NJ?
If you leave the scene before confirming that there are no injuries, you could be charged with an offense under § 39:4-129(a). This is not technically a “crime” because it is found in the traffic code, not the criminal code. However, it can still carry substantial criminal penalties and may be upgraded to a crime under some circumstances. The offense contained in this statute applies only when all elements of the offense are met.
This statute only applies to leaving the scene of an accident that involves injury or death. When you stop, you are required to stop in such a place that you do not block traffic – or at least minimize how much traffic you are blocking. Then, you must give the victim and any police who respond to the accident your name and address and show them your license and registration. Failing to do so can result in charges.
Serious penalties apply if you fail to stop for an accident involving injury or death, but you can also face charges for failing to stop after an accident that has only property damage.
If you are charged with this traffic offense, you can still be charged separately for any other crimes you committed that led to the accident. For instance, injuring someone with your car could be deemed assault by auto, and leaving the scene of the crime does not preclude being charged with that offense in addition to the offense for leaving the scene. You can also be charged with any other traffic offenses you committed, such as tickets for speeding, drunk driving, reckless driving, or any other offense.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident Laws in Atlantic County
New Jersey has laws that require you to stay and exchange information after an accident. Unlike the law in most other states, NJ’s laws apply to nearly every vehicle accident, meaning you should make it a habit to stop your car and report the accident.
If you were “knowingly involved in an accident” in New Jersey, N.J.S.A. § 39:4-129 requires you to do the following:
- Stop your vehicle
- Remain at the scene of the accident
- Move your vehicle so you are not blocking traffic
- Give your name and address to any police or witnesses and the person whose property you damaged (e.g., the other driver)
Sometimes accidents involve unattended cars or property where there is no immediate owner or other driver to give your info to. In these circumstances, you are required to leave a note on the damaged vehicle/property with “the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle.” If you cannot leave a note, you are actually supposed to contact the nearest police department and give them the info to contact you so that the victim can get the info from the police later.
It is important to understand that these rules only apply if you know you were in an accident. However, this law creates a soft rule that states that the driver is assumed to know they were involved in an accident any time the crash causes property damage of $250 or more. If you hit something hard enough to leave a dent or a large scratch on your car, it is likely that you heard or felt the impact. This inference may be overcome with evidence that you actually did not know the accident occurred.
Penalties for Hit and Runs with Property Damage Only
Leaving the scene of an accident can have strong penalties, even if the accident only involved property damage. N.J.S.A. § 39:4-129(b) authorizes a fine between $200 and $400 and potential jail time of up to 30 days for a first offense. A second offense has a fine of $400 to $600 and 30 to 90 days in jail.
In any hit and run case, you also face a license suspension. For a first offense of leaving the scene of an accident, you lose your driving privileges for 6 months. If this was your second or further offense, you face the potential of a 1-year license suspension instead.
On top of these fines, the jail time, and the license suspension, you may also face other costs. There are additional court costs associated with any offense which are paid on top of the fine. In addition, your insurance company may increase your insurance premiums after a serious traffic offense like this. Lastly, when your license is restored, you will have to pay a restoration fee.
You could also be charged with other offenses on top of leaving the scene of an accident. When this happens, you could face the full penalties of those offenses as well. This is common in cases of DWI, reckless driving, and other serious traffic offenses.
If the accident involved injury, the penalties can be more severe. Leaving the scene of an accident with injury yields a fine of $2,500 to $5,000 for the first offense and can send you to jail for 180 days. This penalty is not upgraded for repeat offenders.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of a Crash with Injuries
The penalties for leaving the scene of an accident involving injury can be quite severe. This is not classified as a traditional “crime,” so it is not graded as an offense. Because of this, this offense has penalties that may be more or less severe compared to other crimes of about the same level.
Leaving the scene of an accident with injury can lead to 180 days in jail. This penalty is optional for judge to order, but it does not allow room to deviate upward or downward. Ultimately, that means you will either spend 0 days in jail or 180 days in jail for this offense.
The fine for this offense ranges from $2,500 to $5,000. The government has a strong interest in ensuring that people get medical care after an accident, and failing to report a crash can lead to serious injuries. This fine is quite high to combat that possibility and deter people from leaving the scene. Typical misdemeanor offenses in New Jersey have a maximum fine of $1,000, so this crime has higher penalties than is typical.
If the injuries are severe enough to legally qualify as “serious bodily injury,” this offense will be upgraded to a third degree crime under § 2C:12-1.1. This offense is more serious and carries the potential of 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000. If the injuries ultimately lead to the victim’s death, the offense will be charged as a second degree crime under § 2C:11-5.1. This carries penalties of 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
Call Our Atlantic City Hit and Run Defense Lawyers Today
If you were charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage only in Atlantic City, call our defense attorneys today. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych’s hit and run defense lawyers can help you fight the charges you face and work to get penalties reduced. To schedule a free legal consultation on your Atlantic City leaving the scene of an accident charges, call our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.