Texas classifies crimes associated with leaving the scene of an accident as either misdemeanors or felonies. In either case, driving away after hitting someone is a bad idea. While most people rationally know not to leave the scene, they may not act rationally in the moment. Fear, adrenaline, ignorance, carelessness, or other factors may lead a driver to pull away and keep moving. Unfortunately, the state considers leaving the scene of an accident under any circumstance a serious crime.
Speak to a Houston defense attorney now and learn more information about your case.
Misdemeanor and Felony Hit-and-Run Accidents in Houston
If you are involved in an accident in Texas that involves property damage, injury, or death, you are legally obligated to:
- Return to and stop your vehicle in a safe location as close to the scene of the incident as possible.
- Determine if anyone involved in the accident needs help, offer reasonable assistance, and either transport the person to a medical facility or contact emergency responders on that person’s behalf.
- Remain at the scene until you share vehicle registration information, insurance information, and your driver’s license information (if asked) to any other drivers or passengers involved in the incident.
If you do not stop at the scene of the accident or comply with the law, you may face the following consequences:
- Second-degree felony charges. If someone dies at the scene or later as a result of the accident, the state may pursue second-degree felony charges. Those convicted of a second-degree felony may face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Third-degree felony charges. If someone suffers a serious bodily injury in the accident, the hit-and-run driver may face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Class B misdemeanor. If the accident results in damage exceeding $200 in value, the hit-and-run driver could spend six months in jail.
- Class C misdemeanor. If the accident results in damage under $200 in value, the court may order the hit-and-run driver to pay a fine of up to $500.
The law is clear, but accidents are messy. Depending on the facts of the case, the charges a prosecutor initially files may not hold up in court. Anyone charged with a hit-and-run accident should consult a defense attorney to better understand how the law applies in various situations.
Steps to Take If You Wrongfully Leave the Scene of an Accident
Whether you didn’t realize you needed to stop or you thought the other driver involved waived you on, facing a hit-and-run investigation can be frightening. Before the state can charge you with a crime, they must identify and prove you were the other driver. If you face investigatory questions or charges for a hit-and-run accident, take the following steps:
- Talk to a defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will help you understand what you’re up against and how to answer investigators’ questions.
- Do not self-incriminate. Investigators are not looking for justifications or excuses when they confront individuals about crimes. They are searching for anything they can use to make an arrest. Remain silent until you consult your attorney. Use caution when sending electronic communications and posting online, too. Anything publicly posted can be used against you.
- Delay calling your insurer. Wait to talk to your insurer until after you speak with an attorney. The insurance company may give the police any information you provide.
Take a proactive approach to hit-and-run charges instead of hiding and hoping the situation will go away. Talk to an attorney about what happened and work through criminal charges, insurance claims, and other factors that may arise. Hit-and-run charges can be serious, but the right defense strategy may result in reduced charges or a case dismissal.