If you failed to stop at the scene of a crash, then you might be facing very serious criminal charges. You could face misdemeanor charges even if no one was injured in the crash. If the crash resulted in serious bodily injury or death, then you could face very serious felony charges.
The law is often unforgiving in these cases. Once a criminal investigation begins, you should immediately seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney BEFORE you make any statement to a law enforcement officer.
If the officer conducting the crash investigation discovers that a driver involved in the accident left the scene then the officers will immediately start a criminal investigation. The officer might have information about the vehicle or its tag number. From that information, the officer can quickly determine who owns the vehicle.
Officers will often travel to that person’s house or business to interrogate them about the accident and find the vehicle involved in the crash. These officers are trained to interrogate the suspect and get an admission because that is often the only way to prove the charges beyond all reasonable doubt at trial.
Michael Skinner is experienced in representing clients in felony and misdemeanor hit-and-run cases, which are also called “leaving the scene of an accident” or “failure to stop” or “hit and skip.” Call to find out what you need to do right now to protect yourself after an allegation of failing to stop and provide information and render aid after a vehicle accident or crash.
Attorney Michael Skinner has offices conveniently located in West Chester in Chester County, PA. Call him to schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case, the potential penalties that might apply, and important defenses. Call (610) 436-1410 today.
Many people are haunted by their decision to leave the scene and immediately confess when the officer knocks on their front door. Unfortunately, the law does not usually reward you for being truthful and incriminating yourself. In fact, prosecutors often seek more jail or prison time in cases with an admission than in those cases in which the driver exercises his or her constitutional right to remain silent and have the assistance of counsel.
For the prosecutor, the offer to resolve the case often revolves around how easy it will be to prove the charges at trial. Keep in mind that after the criminal investigation begins you are not required to incriminate yourself.
The officers typically have a very difficult time proving the crime unless they get an admission from the driver that the vehicle was involved in a crash, the driver was driving the vehicle at the time of the crash, the driver knew he or she was involved in a crash, and the driver left the scene without providing information or rendering aid.
The officers can also obtain other circumstantial evidence such as cell phone records, hearsay statements made to friend or family, or records showing that the vehicle was repaired.
Instead of waiting for the officers to come to your home or business to interrogate you, it is better to take a pro-active approach to your defense. Your attorney can find the investigating officer and notify the officer in writing that you are invoking your right to remain silent and have an attorney represent you in the matter. In most cases, that prevents the officer from coming to your home or business to interrogate you.
If the officer does not have a witness that can identify you or sufficient circumstantial evidence, then the officer might decide just to close the case once he realizes that you have invoked your fifth amendment right to remain silent and your sixth amendment right to counsel.
Your attorney can also help you get your vehicle released and deal with the insurance claim for the damages that you suffered and that anyone else in the crash suffered. In some cases, you might be liable for the damages in a civil claim against your insurance company even though you were never charged with a crime.
Under Section 3742(b), if the defendant is charged with hit and run, then the crime is charged as a misdemeanor of the first degree. If the accident or crash resulted in serious bodily injury or death of the person, then the violation is a felony of the third degree, with the penalties increasing if the accident results in death.
Under Section 3742(a) the following offenses can be charged:
If you were charged with hit and run, a violation of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code found in Section 3742, then contact an experienced attorney at Skinner Law Firm with offices in West Chester in Chester County, PA.
For hit and run cases charged under either Sections 3742 or 3744 (Driver’s Duty to Give Information and Render Aid) of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, the elements that must be proven at trial beyond all reasonable doubt for a charge of hit and run resulting in injury or death include:
The Pennsylvania Suggested Standard Criminal Jury Instructions for Hit and Run resulting in injury or death of a person were last revised in April 2005. The instructions are based on the requirements of Sections 3742 and 3744 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code.
The duty to stop requires the driver to immediately stop his or her vehicle at the scene of the accident while obstructing traffic as little as possible, or as close to the scene as possible, and he or she must remain at the scene until he or she performs the second duty, the duty to give information and render aid.
The duty to give information requires the driver to give his or her name and address and the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving and, upon request, to present his or her driver’s license and proof of insurance to any person injured in the accident and to any police officer at the scene of the accident or who is investigating the accident.
The duty to render aid requires the driver to give to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making arrangements to carry the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary and the injured person requests it.
If none of the injured persons is in condition to receive the information the driver is required to give and if no police officer is present, the driver of the vehicle involved in the accident, after performing the duties to stop and remain at the scene, as well as to provide information and render aid, insofar as possible on his or her part to be performed, must then report the accident to the nearest office of a duly authorized police department and submit to the department the information previously described pertaining to the duty to provide information.
Although the actual language of the statute contains no mens rea (a person’s awareness of the fact that his or her conduct is criminal) element, Pennsylvania law requires that the defendant knew or should have known that he or she was involved in the accident. (See Commonwealth v. Woosnam, 819 A.2d 1198 (Pa.Super. 2003).) In Woosnam, the Superior Court held that the trial court must instruct the jury as to the mens rea element.
The mens era element must be proven, either directly or by proof of circumstances from which knowledge could reasonably be inferred, for a conviction of 75 Pa.C.S. § 3743, relating to hit and run accidents resulting in property damage. If the court fails to properly instruct the jury on the knowledge requirement, then a new trial will be ordered on appeal.
If you are charged with failure to stop after a crash that doesn’t involve an injury you are facing a misdemeanor that involves criminal penalties. If the crash resulted in an injury or death of another person then you are facing very serious felony charges. Read more about hit and run cases in West Chester, PA, after leaving the scene of an accident or crash.
Many of the felony charges for failure to stop or hit and run involve another person suffering serious bodily injury. Under Pennsylvania law, serious bodily injury means a bodily injury that created a substantial risk of death or that caused serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
If you made a mistake by failing to stop to provide information and render aid, then don’t compound the error by trying to represent yourself. Many of these cases involve an officer hunting down the suspect and conducting an interrogation at their home or place of business. In other cases, the officer might call you and ask you to come down to the station. Either way, contact a criminal defense attorney before answering any questions.
Michael Skinner is experienced in representing clients charged with hit and run or failure to stop throughout Pennsylvania, including Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County. His offices are conveniently located in West Chester in Chester County, PA.
Call today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced traffic crimes attorney in West Chester, PA. Call to discuss the case during a free and confidential consultation. Find out what you need to do right now to protect your rights. Call (610) 436-1410 today.
This article was last updated on Tuesday, February 2, 2016.