When you are involved in a car accident – especially if there is death or injury involved – stop your car and exchange information with the driver. If you do not, you could face serious criminal penalties.
In New Jersey, the law requires certain steps to be taken after an accident. If you were involved in a hit and run where you failed to stop, you can not only be held responsible for the results of the accident, but face additional punishment for leaving the scene. If you have been charged with a hit and run in South Jersey, contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych for help with your case.
New Jersey Hit and Run Laws
New Jersey’s statute covers accidents that involve injury or death, accidents that only involve damage, and accidents with damage to unattended property. That means you must stop for any accident you are involved in.
N.J.S.A. § 39:4-129 requires a driver who was “knowingly involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person” to stop and comply with certain procedures. Note that the “knowingly” in this law refers to the accident, not the injury. That means that if you know you were in an accident, and the accident resulted in injury or death – whether you knew that or not – you are still required to stop. Since subsections b. and d. also require you to stop for an accident that involves only property damage – even if it is only to your own vehicle – you must still stop.
When you stop, you are required to give the other people involved some information. That includes the following:
Give your name,
Give your address,
Show your driver’s license,
Show your vehicle registration.
You must provide this information to anyone involved in the accident, any witnesses who ask for it, and any police that respond.
In addition, you must give “reasonable assistance” to injured people, which includes “the carrying of that person to a hospital or physician.” That does not require that you carry them there yourself, but it can require calling an ambulance.
If your accident involved damage to unattended property, you must also try to contact the owner or leave a note on it with your information. Otherwise, you could be convicted under part of this law.
N.J.S.A. § 39:4-129 covers hit and runs for driving a car, truck, or motorcycle, but these requirements must also be met for a snowmobile accident, all-terrain vehicle accident, or dirt bike accident, in accordance with N.J.S.A. § 39:3C-21.
If, after the accident, you try to hide or cover-up evidence of the hit and run (such as by washing off, repairing, or covering the damage to your car), you set yourself up for an additional fine of anywhere between $250 and $1,000.
Defenses for a Hit and Run
These laws require that you stop – but only if you knew you were in an accident. That does not mean that you suspected you were in an accident, nor that you thought you might be in an accident, but actually knew you were in an accident. In order to prove this, the prosecution must prove your state of mind and knowledge after the accident to convict you of this crime. Sometimes, bumps in the road and sounds outside the car can sound far away or less serious than they are. This leaves room for a jury to doubt that the driver knew he was involved in an accident.
If the accident resulted in damage over $250, injury, or death, though, there is an automatic inference that you know you were involved in an accident. High amounts of damage or injury make it more difficult to prove that you did not know you were in a crash.
Potential Punishment for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
For an accident that caused death or injury, you could be fined between $2,500 and $5,000. You could also face 180 days in jail, in addition to or as an alternative to the fine. The jail time, though, can only be used as punishment if the injuries were to someone other than the driver.
For an accident that caused only damage, whether to attended or unattended property, the fine is $200 to $400, and there is a chance of jail time up to 30 days for a first offense. For any subsequent offense, the fine increases to between $400 and $600 and jail time increases to between 30 days and 90 days.
Speak to a Southern New Jersey Hit and Run Defense Lawyer Today
Your license can also be suspended for six months for your first hit and run offense, and one year for any additional offenses.
If you have been charged with a hit and run, your best chance of staying out of jail and getting the charges dropped or dismissed is to have an experienced attorney on your side. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych have experienced hit and run attorneys who can help you with your case in South Jersey. For a free consultation, call (609) 625-3006, or contact us online.