Also known as a hit and run, or leaving the scene of an accident. When you are involved in an accident, there are a number of things you are required by law to do. While some of them are obvious (don’t flee!) others are less obvious. Below, we will step through the requirements and various violations you could be charged with if you fail to meet those requirements. The video provides a general overview and the text after the video offers more detail.
There are 4 separate laws relating to what a driver must do following a non-injury accident, each covered separately below.
1. Failure to remain at the scene of an accident.
If you are involved in an accident, you are required to remain at the scene of the accident, and you are also required to remain at the scene without obstructing other traffic. A.R.S. 28-662 covers this in three parts:
- A.R.S. 28-662(A)(1) Requires you to immediately stop your car at the scene of the accident or as close to the accident scene as possible. In other words, if you collide with another car (or even a pole or a wall), don’t keep driving. Stop.
- A.R.S. 28-662(A)(2) Requires you to remain at the scene until you have fulfilled the requirements of 28-663(A)(3). In a nutshell, this means stick around at the scene of the accident until you have exchanged insurance, registration and contact information, and until anyone injured has been assisted.
- A.R.S. 28-662(A)(3) Requires you to stop in such a way as to minimize any obstruction to other traffic. In other words, pull over to the side of the road if possible.
2. Failure to exchange information + Failure to render assistance
If you are involved in an accident, and after you’ve stopped at the scene, you need to exchange information with the other driver(s) and render reasonable assistance to anyone who is injured. A.R.S. 28-663 covers this in three parts:
- A.R.S. 28-663(A)(1) Requires that you provide your name, address and registration number of the vehicle you were driving.
- A.R.S. 28-663(A)(2) Requires that, upon request, you show your driver license to the person you hit, or to the driver or occupants of the vehicle you hit, or to the person attending the vehicle you hit. In other words, if someone involved in the accident asks to see your license, show it to them.
- A.R.S. 28-663(A)(3) Requires that you render “reasonable assistance” to anyone injured at the accident. While you may not be a medical professional, you can at least make arrangements for the injured person to be transported to the hospital.
3. Failure to stop at the scene of an accident.
If you hit a car that is unattended (the owner or driver is not with the car), you still need to stop and leave your contact information. A.R.S. 28-664 covers this in two parts:
- A.R.S. 28-664(A)(1) Requires that you immediately stop after striking another vehicle. This is pretty self-explanatory.
- A.R.S. 28-664(A)(2) Requires that you either locate the operator or owner of the vehicle you struck and leave your name and address, or that you leave a written note with your name and address on conspicuous place on the vehicle you struck.
4. Failure to notify owner after striking a fixture or property.
If you crash into a fixture or other object legally on or adjacent to the highway, you need to stop and provide your contact information. A.R.S. 28-665 covers this in two parts:
- A.R.S. 28-665(A)(1) Requires you to take reasonable steps to locate and notify the owner of the fixture or property and tell them about the accident, provide your name and address, and provide you registration.
- A.R.S. 28-665(A)(2) Requires you to show your driver license upon request to the owner of the struck fixture or property.
Possible Consequences of a Conviction
Almost all of the charges noted above are class 1 misdemeanors, except as noted below. Consequences of a class 1 misdemeanor conviction could include:
- Up to 6 months in jail.
- Up to $2,500 in fines, plus surcharges which will bring the total fines close to $5,000.
- Up to 3 years probation.
- 6 points on your driving record.
A conviction for Failure to render assistance, A.R.S. 28-663(A)(3), is a class 6 felony. Consequences for a class 6 felony conviction could include:
- Up to 2 years in prison.
- Court costs.
- Fines up to $150,000, plus additional fines if drugs were involved.
- Mandatory alcohol or drug screening if drugs were involved.
- 6 points on your driving record.
A class 6 felony is the least serious type of felony in Arizona, and it is unlike other felony classes in that the prosecutor or judge can designate the charge as a class 1 misdemeanor.
Mitigating the Consequences of a Hit and Run Accident
Here are some things to consider if you are ever involved in a hit and run situation:
In our experience, when a person is accused of failing to remain at the scene of an accident, it is often a situation where an unattended car was struck and the driver could not immediately locate the owner of the unattended car. Another scenario we see is the driver did not realize they made contact with another vehicle. Although an extreme example, I once had a semi truck side swipe my vehicle, causing significant damage to every body panel on the driver’s side of my car, and the truck driver had no idea he had even hit me. If you have no idea you struck a vehicle, you would understandably not stop, only to have police show up at your home to issue a ticket for leaving the scene of an accident.
If you are aware you struck a vehicle but did not stop, seek legal advice immediately, before speaking with the police.
A very important part of resolving a case involving an unattended car is to make sure the owner of the unattended car is contacted at some point, and to make sure that any damage to the unattended car is repaired at no cost to the owner. If you can accomplish those two items, you will have a much better chance at a non-criminal resolution.
If you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident, it is definitely worth fighting the ticket. These are tickets where there is room to improve on the outcome through negotiations with the prosecutor. Things that can be helpful might be:
- Offering a compelling reason why you failed to remain at the scene;
- Offering evidence that you attempted to contact or locate the other driver;
- Providing proof that your insurance has made the other driver whole (paid for the damage/injuries);
- Providing evidence of an otherwise clean driving record; and
- Providing evidence of your good character.
With the right factual circumstances, a good background, and the help of an experienced attorney, you have a good opportunity to secure a reduced plea or even a dismissal of the charge.