Leaving the scene: We say “hit and run.” But the criminal statutes aren’t titled that way. “Hit and run” describes a fact-situation. And a prosecutor could charge a “leaving the scene” case under several different criminal laws, depending on the facts.
On the severe end of the spectrum are Criminal Vehicular Homicide charges.
But on the low-end, is a traffic ticket case, with property damage only, where the driver fails to notify the damaged party.
So, at the core is a driver, in a collision, who fails to provide their information to the damaged party.
Leaving the Scene: Causation element
The most specific statute is Minnesota Statutes §169.09 “COLLISIONS.” Minnesota statutes address several hit and run scenarios.
The other statute that prosecutors can charge is Minnesota Statutes §609.2113 “CRIMINAL VEHICULAR OPERATION; BODILY HARM.”
The key difference? Causation element. Minnesota Statutes §169.09, Subd. 14 (a) “Penalties” says, “The driver … who did not cause the collision is punishable as follows …”
But contrast that with: Minnesota Statutes §609.2113 “CRIMINAL VEHICULAR OPERATION,” saying:
“(7) where the driver who causes the accident leaves the scene of the accident in violation of section 169.09, subdivision 1 or 6.”
Bodily Harm & Property Damage Level: Damage element
The damage element is something both statutes have in common.
The crime can be a felony, gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor depending upon the level of damage in the collision. Specifically, the levels of damage are:
- Great bodily harm
- Substantial bodily harm
- Bodily harm
- Property damage
Exception: Property damage only cannot be the basis for a Criminal Vehicular Operation charge. Because that charge requires, at minimum, bodily harm to another.
But a prosecutor can charge “a property damage only,” leaving the scene case under Minnesota Statutes §169.09.
Hit and Run: Identity element
Evidence of identity is the defining problem of “leaving the scene” and “hit and run” cases.
Police officers must focus on getting that evidence. In fact, some larger police departments even have officers who specialize in hit and run cases. Proving identity of the driver is their biggest challenge. So, identity of a driver in a collision is really the core of the crime.
Society wants drivers to be responsible for their actions. And have insurance.
Factors contributing to leaving the scene & hit and run
We may not be able to explain why many leaving the scene and hit and run cases happen. But we may be able to discern contributing causes:
- DWI history leading to unlicensed driver
- Uninsured driver
- Driver under the influence at the time
- Undocumented alien without drivers license
Accident report requirement
Minnesota law requires the driver to file an accident report if the collision meets certain conditions. Minnesota Statutes §169.09, Subd. 7 (a),
“Accident report to commissioner. The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting inMinn. Stat. §169.09, Subd. 7 (a)
bodily injury to or death of any individual or
total property damage to an apparent extent of $1,000 or more,
shall forward a written report of the accident to the commissioner of public safety within ten days of the accident.”
So, if you’re in a car accident with injuries, or at least $1,000 damage, you should file the accident report. And if you don’t, a prosecutor can charge you with a misdemeanor crime under subdivision 14 (c).
But what should a driver do, who is at risk of accusation of hit and run, or leaving the scene?
Fifth Amendment privilege
The State of Minnesota requests information on its accident report form that can be self-incriminating. This presents a “Catch 22” situation. So, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Solution? Your experienced criminal defense lawyer. So, we can help you fill out the form to both show compliance yet not self-incriminate in a meaningful way.
The Fifth Amendment also is important during police questioning. Moreover, you can refuse to answer any questions. And you can cite your Fifth Amendment privilege as well as your right to have a lawyer present. Then, do remain silent.
Hit and Run Attorney
Drivers should not knowingly leave the scene of an accident. And drivers should not hit and run. Nor should a driver Flee Police. But you don’t need a lawyer to know that.
None of us can change the past, though. And sometimes police suspect a driver who is innocent, in light of all the circumstances.
That’s when you need a lawyer with experience in hit and run and leaving the scene cases. Defense Attorney Thomas Gallagher‘s decades of experience with these cases can benefit you.
He can help identify effective defenses. And he can be the difference between getting a conviction record and keeping it clean. And Thomas Gallagher can help you avoid prison or jail.
Attorney Thomas Gallagher knows what to do. And he can help you understand why.