Getting into an accident is a stressful situation. A motor vehicle accident in Virginia can mean dealing with car repairs, higher insurance rates, and possible injuries. However, when the driver has had a couple of drinks, even if he or she doesn't feel impaired, the driver risks possible criminal charges for a DUI causing an accident.
It can be tempting to flee the scene of an accident if the driver has been drinking, especially if no one was injured. However, a DUI hit and run can result in serious criminal penalties, including possible jail time, loss of your license, and expensive fines. If you have been charged with a DUI hit and run in Virginia, talk to your Virginia DUI defense attorney about your rights.
Duty to Stop After an Accident
Under Virginia Code § 46.2-894, the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident shall immediately stop as close to the scene of the accident as possible (without obstructing traffic). This includes accidents in which:
- A person is killed,
- A person is injured,
- An attended vehicle is damaged, or
- Other attended property is damaged.
A driver is required to provide name, address, driver's license number, and vehicle registration number to:
- The State Police or local law enforcement,
- To the person struck or injured,
- To the other driver or some occupant of the vehicle, or
- Custodian of the damaged property
The driver shall also render reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident. This may include taking the injured person to a doctor or hospital if it is apparent that medical attention is needed or requested.
If the driver is injured in the accident or unable to comply with the above requirements, the driver must make a report to the police or law enforcement and make a reasonable effort to locate the person injured or owner of the damaged property.
Hit and Run Penalties
Leaving the scene of an accident without complying with the above is a criminal offense in Virginia. Penalties may depend on whether anyone was injured or the extent of the damage.
Hit and Run Class 5 Felony:
- Accident resulted in injury
- Accident resulted in death
- Accident resulted in property damage of more than $1,000
Hit and Run Class I Misdemeanor:
- No injury, death, and damage of $1,000 or less to property
A hit and run involving an unattended vehicle still requires the driver to make reasonable efforts to find the owner of the property and provide contact information. If the owner can't be found, the driver should leave a note with the required information at an obvious location at the scene of the accident.
Hit and Run While Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
If the driver is caught leaving the scene of an accident and is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, the driver will likely face multiple DUI criminal charges. In addition to unlawfully leaving the scene of an accident, the driver may also be charged with:
- DUI Causing an Accident
- DUI Causing Serious Bodily Injury
- DUI Causing Death (Involuntary Manslaughter)
Defenses to DUI Hit and Run
Innocent people can be charged with a DUI hit and run or leaving the scene of an accident. However, there are a number of possible defenses to DUI hit and run charges. Talk to your Virginia DUI defense lawyer about your best options to fight criminal charges and keep your license to drive.
Did Not Leave the Scene
In some cases, a driver may be reported as leaving the accident when he or she was really looking for a safe place to stop that was not blocking traffic. On smaller roads or busy highways, it can be difficult to find a safe place to stop the vehicle. A driver may believe that it is safer to pull into a parking lot nearby than to stop on a narrow shoulder. However, this person may be reported for leaving the scene of the accident even though the driver was going to return to the accident and report the accident to law enforcement.
Driver is Not Impaired
Even if the driver was involved in an accident and left without giving their information, the driver may not have been legally impaired. Just because the driver had some level of alcohol in his or her blood does not mean the driver was “under the influence.” Inaccurate breath and blood tests may show an incorrect blood alcohol content (BAC), making it appear the driver was over the legal limit. However, your DUI defense attorney may be able to challenge these inaccurate results.
Charlottesville Hit and Run DUI Defense Attorney
If you have been accused of leaving the scene of an accident while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may be facing jail time, fines, and a suspended license. Talk to an experienced Charlottesville DUI defense attorney about your case and how to keep your record clear. Contact me today for a free consultation.