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Can You Go to Jail for Leaving the Scene of an Accident?

If you’re involved in an accident, you must fulfill several legal duties before leaving the scene. This is true whether the other vehicle was occupied or the collision was with someone else’s property. Failing to do what is required is against the law. The crime is referred to as a hit and run. Depending on whether anyone was seriously hurt, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. A conviction means that you can go to jail for leaving the scene of an accident. In addition to incarceration, you can also face fines, loss of driving privileges, and victim restitution.

At L. Patrick Mulligan & Associates, LLC, we provide dedicated legal representation to those accused of crimes in Dayton. Speak with one of our criminal defense attorneys by contacting us at (937) 685-7006.

Responsibilities After an Accident

Ohio Revised Code § 4549.02 specifies what’s required of individuals who know that they have been in a collision with a person or vehicle on a public road.

These duties include:

  • Stopping: You must stop your vehicle at or near the scene of the accident.
  • Exchanging information: You must provide your name and address (and the name and address of the vehicle’s owner if you were driving someone else’s car) and the vehicle's registration number to anyone who was hurt, the driver or passengers of the other vehicle, and law enforcement officials. You must also present your driver’s license upon request.

In an accident resulting in serious injury, the other person might not be able to comprehend, accept, or record your personal details. However, that does not absolve you from fulfilling your legal duties. If you can’t exchange information with the other person, you must notify the local law enforcement agency and provide your details along with the location of the accident. You must also wait at the scene until emergency services personnel arrive. You are relieved of this requirement if you had to be transported for medical care.

What If the Vehicle Was Unoccupied?

Let’s say you hit a parked car. How are you supposed to share information?

If no one was in the vehicle you collided with, your legal duties still apply. To ensure that the car’s owner gets your information, you must leave a written note for them in or on the vehicle in a place where they will see it.

In matters involving damage to real or personal property when the owner is not around, you must make a reasonable effort to find the individual. If your attempts are unsuccessful, you must notify the local law enforcement agency within 24 hours after the accident, providing your details and a description of the damage.

The Consequences for Failing to Fulfill Your Legal Duties

Leaving the scene of an accident –whether it involved an occupied or unoccupied vehicle or personal property – is a crime in Ohio. The level of charges and penalties you can face depends on the offense's severity.

Generally, a hit and run (including accidents involving property damage) is a first-degree misdemeanor with penalties including:

  • Up to 180 days in jail and/or
  • Not more than $1,000 in fines

An accident resulting in serious injury is a fifth-degree felony, punishable by:

  • Up to 12 months in prison and/or
  • Up to $2,500 in fines

If you knew someone else was seriously hurt, the offense is a fourth-degree felony carrying penalties that include:

  • Up to 18 months in prison and/or
  • Up to $5,000 in fines

A collision causing death is a third-degree felony, penalized by:

  • Up to 36 months in prison and/or
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

If you knew another person died in the crash, the crime is a second-degree felony, punishable by:

  • Up to 12 years in prison and/or
  • Up to $15,000 in fines.

In any hit and run case, the judge can also impose a class 5 suspension of your driving privileges. The suspension period ranges from 6 months to 3 years. Additionally, if you do not have vehicle insurance, you could be ordered to pay restitution of up to $5,000 for any economic damage you caused to the alleged victim.

Fight Your Hit and Run Charge

It is possible to challenge allegations of leaving the scene of the accident. For instance, a criminal defense attorney could argue that the defendant didn’t realize they were in an accident or they left a note that must have gotten lost.

Our Dayton team invests the time and energy into exploring available legal avenues for our clients.

Contact L. Patrick Mulligan & Associates, LLC at (937) 685-7006 today.