Failing to Stop at the Scene of an Accident

Failing to stop at the scene of an accident, or “hit and run”, is a serious crime in Virginia that carries serious penalties. Hit and run is chargeable as a misdemeanor or a felony, and if convicted the driver will have a permanent criminal record. In Virginia, a driver must stop at the scene of an accident in which he is involved. Being involved in an accident is defined by law as having physical contact between the driver’s vehicle and another vehicle, person or object. Fault is irrelevant: even if the driver is not at fault he is required to stay at the scene. Further, he must give the other driver his name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration information. If a person is injured he must also render “reasonable assistance”.

The hit and run laws are divided up into several different statutes: 1) Unattended Property Damage (when a person collides with unoccupied property, like a car parked on the side of the road); 2) Attended Property Damage (when a person collides with another vehicle that’s occupied); and 3) Attended Property with Injury or Death (when a person collides with another vehicle or pedestrian and injury results).

How does prosecution prove hit and run?

  1. Unattended Property Damage: To be convicted of unattended hit and run related to property damage, the Commonwealth must prove

    • The person was a driver of a vehicle which he knew he was in an accident;
    • The accident caused damage;
    • The person knew, or should have known, an unattended vehicle was damaged by the accident; AND
    • The person failed to do any of the following: a) stop at the scene; or b) report his name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number forthwith to law enforcement
  2. Attended Property Damage (misdemeanor): To be convicted of misdemeanor hit and run related to property damage, the Commonwealth must prove

    • The person was a driver of a vehicle which he knew he was in an accident;
    • The accident caused damage of $1000 or less;
    • The person knew, or should have known, an attended vehicle was damaged by the accident; AND
    • The person failed to do any of the following: a) stop at the scene; or b) report his name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number forthwith to law enforcement
  3. Attended Property Damage (felony): To be convicted of felony hit and run related to property damage, the Commonwealth must prove

    • The person was a driver of a vehicle which he knew he was in an accident;
    • The accident caused damage more than $1000;
    • The person knew, or should have known, an attended vehicle was damaged by the accident; AND
    • The person failed to do any of the following: a) stop at the scene; or b) report his name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number forthwith to law enforcement
  4. Attended Property with Injury or Death: To be convicted of felony hit and run related to injury, the Commonwealth must prove

    • The person was a driver of a vehicle which he knew he was in an accident;
    • The accident caused damage more than $1000;
    • The person knew, or should have known, that another person was injured; AND
    • The person failed to do any of the following: a) stop at the scene; b) render reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident; or c) report his name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number forthwith to law enforcement

Penalties

  1. Unattended Property Damage

    • Property Damage More than $500: This charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punished with up to 12 months in jail, a fine up to $2,500, driver’s license suspension for up to 6 months, and the DMV will add 4 demerit points to the offender’s Virginia driving record.
    • Property Damage Less than $250: This charge is a Class 4 misdemeanor, punished with a fine up to $250.  Additionally, the DMV will add 3 demerit points to the offender’s Virginia driving record.
    • Property Damage More than $250: This offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punished with up to 12 months in jail, a fine up to $2,500, and the DMV will assess 3 demerit points to the offender’s Virginia driving record
  2. Attended Property Damage (misdemeanor): This offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punished with up to 12 months in jail and a fine up to $2,500.  If the property damage exceeded $500, the offender’s driver’s license can also be suspended for up to 6 months.  Additionally, the DMV will add 4 demerit points to the offender’s Virginia driving record.
  3. Attended Property Damage (felony): This offense is a Class 5 felony, punished with up to 10 years in prison, a fine up to $2,500, and driver’s license revocation for one year.  Additionally, the DMV will add 6 demerit points to the offender’s Virginia driving record.
  4. Attended Property with Injury or Death: This offense is a Class 5 felony, punished with up to 10 years in prison, a fine up to $2,500, and driver’s license revocation for one year.  Additionally, the DMV will add 6 demerit points to the offender’s Virginia driving record.

Collateral Consequences

Beyond the immediate penalties associated with a hit and run conviction, other collateral consequences are also at play. Insurance premiums are likely to increase.  Your education or employment opportunities may be hindered: if you are subject to a background check for employment, security clearance, or immigration, a hit and run conviction could affect your future.

If you find yourself charged with hit and run in Virginia, contact an experienced Virginia attorney. An initial consultation with a TATE BYWATER attorney is complimentary.  We’ll discuss your case and work with you to obtain the best possible outcome.  We’re here to help!

Relevant Virginia Statutes

Virginia Code §46.2-894 reads:

The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident in which a person is killed or injured or in which an attended vehicle or other attended property is damaged shall immediately stop as close to the scene of the accident as possible without obstructing traffic, as provided in § 46.2-888, and report his name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number forthwith to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency, to the person struck and injured if such person appears to be capable of understanding and retaining the information, or to the driver or some other occupant of the vehicle collided with or to the custodian of other damaged property. The driver shall also render reasonable assistance to any person injured in such accident, including taking such injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital if it is apparent that medical treatment is necessary or is requested by the injured person.
Where, because of injuries sustained in the accident, the driver is prevented from complying with the foregoing provisions of this section, the driver shall, as soon as reasonably possible, make the required report to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency and make a reasonable effort to locate the person struck, or the driver or some other occupant of the vehicle collided with, or the custodian of the damaged property, and report to such person or persons his name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number.
Any person convicted of a violation of this section is guilty of (i) a Class 5 felony if the accident results in injury to or the death of any person, or if the accident results in more than $1000 of damage to property or (ii) a Class 1 misdemeanor if the accident results in damage of $1000 or less to property.

Virginia Code §46.2-895 reads:

If the driver fails to stop and make the report required by § 46.2-894, every person sixteen years of age or older in the vehicle with the driver at the time of the accident, who has knowledge of the accident, shall have a duty to ensure that a report is made within twenty-four hours from the time of the accident to the State Police or, if the accident occurs in a city or town, to the local law-enforcement agency. The report shall include his name, address, and such other information within his knowledge as the driver is required to report pursuant to § 46.2-894.

Virginia Code §46.2-896 reads:

The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident in which no person is killed or injured, but in which an unattended vehicle or other unattended property is damaged, shall make a reasonable effort to find the owner or custodian of such property and shall report to the owner or custodian the information which the driver is required to report pursuant to § 46.2-894 if such owner or custodian is found. If the owner or custodian of such damaged vehicle or property cannot be found, the driver shall leave a note or other sufficient information including driver identification and contact information in a conspicuous place at the scene of the accident and shall report the accident in writing within 24 hours to the State Police or the local law-enforcement agency. Such note or other information and written report shall contain the information that the driver is required to report pursuant to § 46.2-894. The written report shall, in addition, state the date, time, and place of the accident and the driver’s description of the property damage.
Where, because of injuries sustained in the accident, the driver is prevented from complying with the foregoing provisions of this section, the driver shall, as soon as reasonably possible, make the required report to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency and make a reasonable effort to locate the owner or custodian of the unattended vehicle or property and report to him the information required by § 46.2-894.

Virginia Code §46.2-897 reads:

If the driver fails to stop and make a reasonable search for the owner or custodian of an unattended vehicle or property or to leave a note for such owner or custodian as required by § 46.2-896, every person sixteen years of age or older in the vehicle with the driver at the time of the accident who has knowledge of the accident shall have a duty to ensure that a report is made within twenty-four hours from the time of the accident to the State Police or, if the accident occurs in a city or town, to the local law-enforcement agency. The report shall include his name, address, and such other facts within his knowledge as are required by § 46.2-896 to be reported by the driver.