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Transportation Code, sec. 550.021 requires drivers involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to immediately stop or return to the scene of the accident and remain at the scene until they have discharged their duties to:
Texas law is often unforgiving when it comes to the penalties for a person who left the scene of a crash, even when only property damage occurred. Leaving the scene is a criminal offense that comes with criminal penalties. You need a criminal defense attorney who can help you at every stage of the case.
Whether you are accused of hitting unattended property, a parked vehicle, or an occupied vehicle, contact an attorney to discuss your case.
If you were involved in an accident and left the scene, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you protect your rights. We are experienced in fighting both felony and misdemeanor cases for leaving the scene. Whether you hit unattended property or were involved in a crash that caused serious injury to anther person, we can help.
Let us put our experience to work for you. Call 210-226-1463 today.
If a person hits a fixture or landscaping on a highway, the person can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor if the property damage is less than $200 or a Class B misdemeanor if the damage was $200 or more.
If a person who hits a parked car, but does not find the owner or leave a note, the person can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor if the damage to the vehicle is less than $200 or a Class B misdemeanor if the damage is $200 or more.
If a person who is involved with an accident resulting in property damage on a freeway in a metropolitan area where the vehicles are able to be driven to a suitable location, but does not do so, then the person can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor.
If a person does not stop after an accident involving property damage, then the person can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor if the vehicle damage is less than $200. Class C misdemeanor offenses can result in a fine not more than $500. If the vehicle damage is $200 or more, the individual can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. A conviction for a Class B misdemeanor can result in a fine not more than $2,000 and/or a jail sentence up to 180 days.
If a person does not stop their vehicle after an accident involving injury, then the person can be charged with a felony that is punishable by up five years in prison or up to one year in county jail and/or a fine not more than $5,000.
If the accident results in serious bodily injury or death, then the failure to remain at the scene, provide information, or render aid was designated as a third-degree felony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison and an optional fine of up to $10,000.
A new law passed in 2013, House Bill 72 and Senate Bill 275 increased the penalty for failure to stop and render aid in an accident resulting in the death of a person to a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The new law took effect on September 1, 2013. The new law for leaving the scene of an accident was intended to reduce the incentive for drunk drivers to flee the scene of an accident.
Because drunk driving offenses involving death carried heavier penalties than the law against fleeing the scene of an accident, making the punishment for failing to stop and render aid in the event of a death equivalent to the penalty for intoxication manslaughter would remove that incentive.
By matching the penalties for these two offenses, the Texas Legislature sought to remove the current situation in which people are rewarded for fleeing the scene of a crime. The legislation was intended to encourage people to do the right thing by complying with the law by remaining at the scene.
Sometimes in a hit and run case, people flee from the accident in order to hide their blood alcohol content. By encouraging people to stay at the scene of the crime, the new law was intended to help law enforcement gather evidence if the perpetrator was intoxicated.
Additionally, the new law was intended to save lives and mitigate the harm caused by accidents. By giving people an incentive to stop and render aid, the new law was intended to shorten the time in which medical personnel has been called to the scene of an accident.
This is especially true in those cases in which the victim of the hit-and-run accident wasn’t discovered for several hours. By giving people an incentive to stop and render reasonable aid, including calling medical personnel, it is thought that lives could be saved and the severity of the injuries could be mitigated.
Senator Kirk Watson, the bill's author, gave me this statement:
"Senate Bill 275 increases penalties on those who flee the scene of fatal hit-and-run accidents to match the penalty for intoxication manslaughter. I hope this bill will change the calculus for drivers who make a big mistake. It will remove a potential legal incentive to flee the scene of a crime.
More than that, I hope it will encourage them to do the right thing: stay at the scene, call for help, and try to ensure that the consequences of their actions are less terrible than they'd be otherwise.
We ought to make sure that our laws are as consistent as possible -- it makes no sense that potentially drunk drivers who flee the scenes of fatal accidents face less punishment than those who don't. But more than that, we want to save lives and create incentives for saving lives. Senate Bill 275 does both."
Critics argued that the law would increase the burden on Texas’ criminal justice although the new law did not increase the minimum sentence for this offense. Instead, it only increased the maximum penalties that could be imposed after a person was convicted.
Critics also argue that the new law would not deter a person from fleeing an accident scene, particularly for a person whose judgment was clouded by alcohol. People who leave the scene are usually motivated by panic rather than a cost-benefit analysis of the different penalties that might result.
Additionally, people flee the scene in panic for reasons other than being impaired by alcohol intoxication including:
Even if the person was capable of weighing the consequences, the person might still decide to flee the scene of the accident in hopes of avoiding detection entirely.
Our attorneys are familiar with the tactics used when investigating "hit and run" cases by law enforcement officers in Bexar County including the San Antonio Police Department, the Bexar County Sheriff's Office, and the Texas Highway Patrol.
If you were charged with leaving the scene of an accident (often called "hit and run") in San Antonio or Bexar County, TX, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Goldstein, Goldstein, Hilley & Orr. We can help you invoke your right to remain silent as you deal with a criminal investigation.
We can help you find out what happened during the crash, present your side of the story to law enforcement, deal with your insurance company, and deal with any insurance claim made by anyone else involved in the crash. Let us put our experience to work for you.
Call 210-226-1463 today.
This article was last updated on Friday, November 22, 2017.
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