Individuals that are involved in an automotive accident can make bad decisions due to confusion, fear and guilt. This can be particularly true in cases of drinking and driving, or in situations where a person might not have been driving with a valid license on their person.
If you feel that you might be held responsible for an accident that takes place on the road, you might think that it's tempting to simply leave the scene as quickly as possible to try and avoid getting into trouble. However, the truth is that doing this could actually leave you with more problems than if you stuck around. Leaving the scene of an accident can have several negative consequences that lead to serious charges, and even jail time.
In Massachusetts, this is covered by Section 24 and 26 of Chapter 90 of the Massachusetts General Laws.
What Happens If You Leave the Scene of an Accident?
It's fair to say that car accidents are relatively common. In fact, they happen almost every day, and can happen to any person. It's only natural that many of us find ourselves wanting to flee whenever we're in a chaotic or daunting situations but in the case of a car accident, this is never a good idea. Following the instinct to run away could lead to a number of dire consequences even if it turns out that you weren't responsible for the accident in the first place. What's more, if you are found to be at fault regarding the accident, and another person is injured, then the charges you face may be even stronger.
In Massachusetts, the penalty for leaving the scene will depend on the nature of the accident.
- Accident caused property damage - jail time of 2 weeks to 2 years, fine of $20 to $200
- Accident resulted into personal injury - fine of $500 to $1000 or jail time of 6 months to 2 years
- Accident caused death - felony charges - fine of $5000 and jail time of up to 10 years
Legal Consequences of Leaving the Scene
If a defendant chooses to leave the scene of an accident, it is common for a number of actions to happen as a result.
- First, law enforcement agents will arrive at the scene and conduct an investigation to find out more about what happened there.
- If witnesses are present, then they may be asked questions about what they were able to observe during the time of the accident.
- Additionally, officers may choose to check with surveillance footage that is located in the area, including cameras in traffic lights, or cameras that have been installed by nearby businesses.
Why Are Penalties So Strict?
You may wonder why, since so many people recognize that people involved in accidents or crimes are dealing with a wide range of emotions that might cause them to flee, the penalties regarding fleeing the scene are so strict. The truth is that judges, police, and district attorneys alike generally have a very small tolerance for people who choose to remove themselves from the scene of an accident. The police generally demonstrate this lack of tolerance by making assumptions that might be deemed as uncharitable about the intentions and knowledge of any person that they believe may have knowingly left the scene of an accident. On the other hand, district attorneys show their distaste for those leaving the scene of a crime, by requesting bail in cases where the ordinary reasons for leaving the scene are absent, or by asking for additional bail.
Most of the time, the penalties for a conviction on a charge for leaving the scene will include at least sixty days of license suspension. However, despite the strict penalties in place, if a person makes the mistake of fleeing an accident or scene, there may be some ways for her or him to mitigate the damage and consequences. For instance, if a driver turns himself or herself in after being involved in a hit and run accident, then this will be regarded in a more positive light than when people allow law enforcement officials to waste their time tracking them down.
Defending Against a Charge of Leaving the Scene
- In most cases, fighting a charge of leaving the scene can be incredibly complex, particularly when the police are making uncharitable assumptions about the person involved. The sooner that you contact an attorney, the better your chances will be of coming up with a useful defense that may be used to reduce the severity of the penalty that you incur. After all, uncharitable assumptions may increase the chances that police officers may get the story twisted.
- Importantly, it may also be worth noting that there are some circumstances in which a person may be allowed to leave the scene of an accident without the threat that he or she will end up suffering some form of negative consequence. For instance, laws regarding hit and run events do not apply to people who were not involved directly in the accident, such as witnesses and passengers. While the participation of these people in the course of the investigation is often appreciated, they are generally given the right to leave the scene of the accident without being held liable for charges.
- In spite of this, if you are ever in an accident and want to leave the scene, the best move is usually to stay put.