Hit And Run or Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Hit and run charges, which are technically called “leaving the scene of an accident” in Arizona, can have serious consequences. Even in a minor accident with no injuries and minimal property damage, you are required to stop and provide information to the other driver or the police and render aid to anyone who is injured. You must do this even if you weren’t the one who caused the accident in the first place. If for some reason you can’t stop at the scene of an accident, you have to return to the scene as soon as possible.
If you leave the scene of an accident, or if you fail to provide your information or render aid to a person injured in the accident, you can be charged with a crime. The potential charges depend on the facts of the case and range from a class 3 misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail, to a class 2 felony, with a maximum penalty of 12.5 years in prison for a first offense! Below is a summary of the various “hit and run” or “leaving the scene of an accident” laws in Arizona, from least serious to most serious.
Failing to Stop or Provide Information Upon Striking an Unattended Vehicle “Hit and Run” (ARS 28-664)
If you hit an unoccupied vehicle, in a parking lot for instance, you are still required to stop and either:
- Locate the owner or operator and notify them of your name and address, or
- Leave a written notice with your name and address in a conspicuous place on the unattended vehicle.
Failure to stop and do either of these things will result in a class 3 misdemeanor. While this is a low-level crime under Arizona law, it is still a crime and will still result in a criminal record upon conviction.
Failing to Provide Information or Render Aid (ARS 28-663)
If you are in an an accident with another person, whether that person is another driver, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian, Arizona law requires that you:
- Provide your name, address, and vehicle registration to the other driver or a police officer;
- Show your driver’s license to the other driver or a police officer if requested to do so;
- Render reasonable assistance to anyone who was injured, including getting help.
If you don’t provide information, then you can be charged with a class 3 misdemeanor. If you don’t render aid, you can be charged with a class 6 felony and be sentenced to up to 2 years in prison.
Leaving the Scene of A Non-Injury Accident “Hit and Run” (ARS 28-662)
If you don’t stop at an accident that results in property damage but no injury, or you don’t immediately return to the scene of such an accident to provide information, you can be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor. A class 2 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 4 months in jail and up to a $750 fine. If convicted under this law, the judge can also order that your driver’s license (or nonresident driving privilege) be suspended for one year. If there is any suspicion that alcohol or drugs played a role in the accident, the Arizona MVD can require alcohol or drug screening before reinstating your license.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Death or Physical Injury “Hit and Run” (ARS 28-661)
If you leave the scene of a car accident that results in an injury or a death, then you can be charged with a felony. If the injury was not serious, then you can be charged with a class 5 felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 2.5 years in prison for a first offense. If the injuries are considered serious or someone is killed, then you can be charged with a class 3 felony (maximum of 8.75 years in prison for a first offense). If you actually caused the accident that resulted in serious physical injury or death, you can be charged with a class 2 felony (maximum or 12.5 years in prison for a first offense).
All of these sentences must be stacked on top of the sentences you get for any other crime your charged with that relates to the accident. For instance, if you are charged with both DUI and hit and run, you will have to serve the DUI sentence before even starting the hit and run sentence.
If convicted of leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious physical injury, your driver’s license will be revoked for 5 years. If the accident resulted in death, your license will be suspended for 10 years. These suspensions don’t even start until you are released from any prison or jail sentence.
Of course, if you leave the scene of the accident, you have no way of knowing whether someone was injured or killed and what kind of charge you may be facing until it’s too late.
Defending Hit and Run Charges
Prosecutors and police always suspect that someone involved in a hit and run is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They often are; the penalties for DUI, particularly aggravated DUI and vehicular assault, have become so extreme that people would rather take their chances fleeing the scene than stay and help an injured person. In some cases, however, people involved in an accident suffer their own injuries and become disoriented or confused. People sometimes don’t even realize that they were involved in an accident.
These cases can be difficult to prove. There are often no reliable witnesses. many times, the police must rely on physical evidence to link a suspect’s vehicle to the accident. Even if they can, they must also be able to prove who was driving the suspect vehicle beyond a reasonable doubt. This can be problematic unless a suspect actually makes an admission.
When you are facing criminal charges with significant consequences, like hit and run or leaving the scene of an accident, it is critical that you are represented by an attorney who has experience handling these kinds of cases. For a free case evaluation, call our Tucson, Arizona office at (520) 314-4125 or contact us online.
Consult the following links for more information about Arizona Criminal and DUI laws, as well as local court information: