In every state, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident that involves serious injury or death. The stress of causing injuries in an accident can be difficult to deal with, and many individuals may panic and flee. If police later find you and charge you with leaving the scene of an accident, you could face penalties including jail time, fines, and a license suspension.
If you left the scene of an accident involving injury and were charged with a crime, talk to an attorney. The Atlantic City leaving the scene of an accident lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych offer free consultations to help you understand your case and the potential defenses available. For help with your case, contact our law offices today at (609) 625-3006.
Is Fleeing the Scene of an Accident a Crime in NJ?
Whenever you are involved in a car accident, you should stop your car and see if anyone else involved is okay. 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.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of a Crash in New Jersey
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.
In any case, leaving the scene of an accident can also come with a license suspension. For a first offense, you face a 1-year license suspension, and for any subsequent offenses, you lose the right to drive in New Jersey permanently.
Call Today for a Free Consultation on Charges for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
If you or a loved one was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident that involved injury, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our attorneys represent those charged with serious offenses in New Jersey and fight to get their charges dropped and dismissed. For help with your case, contact our law offices at (609) 625-3006 to schedule a free consultation.