Did you know that it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident in North Carolina? If you are facing criminal hit and run charges it is important to speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. If you are convicted on hit and run charges, you face jail time and driver's license suspension. You will also be burdened with a criminal record.
You have the right to defend yourself against any criminal charges. Hiring an attorney to handle your defense will increase the odds of a successful outcome. Call the North Carolina criminal defense attorneys at Caulder & Valentine today to schedule a free consultation.
What is a Hit and Run?
“Hit and run” is the term most often used to describe the crime of leaving the scene of an accident. In North Carolina, all drivers have an obligation to stop their vehicles and remain at the scene of an accident until police arrive. Specifically, N.C.G.S. § 20-166 states that drivers who know (or should know) that they have been involved in a crash must:
- Immediately stop the vehicle at the scene; and
- Remain with his or her vehicle until police complete the investigation or permit him or her to leave.
While you are at the scene of the crime, you are required to exchange personal information with others involved in the accident and make sure that anyone who suffered an injury receives necessary medical care.
It is important to know that there are very limited exceptions to these requirements. Drivers may leave the scene of an accident or remove their vehicles from the scene if doing so is necessary to:
- Call the police;
- Receive medical attention; or
- Prevent you and others from suffering additional injuries.
If you do leave the scene of an accident to alert police, get medical attention, or avoid additional injury, you are still required to return to the scene within a “reasonable amount of time.” Failure to return to the scene will result in criminal charges.
Hit and Run Penalties
In North Carolina, leaving the scene of an accident can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. The specific charge you will face will depend on the type of injury caused by your accident and your existing criminal record.
Misdemeanor Hit and Run Charges
A hit and run will generally be charged as a Class 1 Misdemeanor offense when the type of injury or damage suffered in the accident is minor. If you leave the scene of an accident that causes property damage, you will likely be charged with misdemeanor hit and run. When charged as a misdemeanor, a hit and run is punishable by up to 120 days in jail and criminal fines.
Felony Hit and Run Charges
A hit and run will be charged as a felony offense when the accident causes injury, serious bodily injury, or death. A hit and run accident causing injury is a Class H Felony, punishable by 4 to 25 months in jail, expensive fines, and suspension of your driver's license. A hit and run accident causing serious bodily injury or death is a Class F Felony, punishable by 10 to 41 months in jail, expensive fines, and suspension of your driver's license.
In North Carolina, an injury that creates a substantial risk of death, cause permanent disfigurement or pain, or result in extended hospitalization will be classified as a serious bodily injury.
Defenses to Hit and Run Charges in North Carolina
Certain defenses can be very helpful when you are fighting hit and run charges in North Carolina. When these defenses are successfully argued the prosecution will have a more difficult time proving that you are guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This can increase your chances of getting the charges reduced or dismissed. Defenses that we can argue in your hit and run case include:
- Lack of knowledge (you didn't know you were involved in an accident);
- Lack of knowledge (you didn't know that the accident caused damage or injury);
- You left the scene temporarily to get help;
- You've been falsely accused; or
- You've been mistakenly identified.
Experienced North Carolina Hit and Run Defense Attorneys
Hit and run charges are incredibly serious and a conviction can change your life forever. If convicted, you will face time in jail, be required to pay substantial criminal fines, and may lose your driving privileges for a period of time. Once you have completed your criminal sentence you will still have the hardship of living with a criminal record, which will affect most parts of your life. A criminal record can make it tough to get a job, rent or buy a home, and qualify for loans.
You have the right to fight the hit and run charges against you, and the criminal defense attorneys at Caulder & Valentine can help. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.