A traffic crash is a traumatic event. Fear and panic are just a few reasons why a driver might leave the scene of an accident. Other reasons are usually based upon legal predicaments such as being intoxicated, driving on a suspended license, facing a parole or probation violation or driving without insurance.
Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime in Michigan
In Michigan, traffic offenses can be charged as civil infractions or as crimes. The offense of leaving the scene of an accident (aka: failing to give identification at the scene of a crash) is charged as a crime in Michigan. Along with drunk driving, leaving the scene of an accident is also one of the most prevalent misdemeanor cases that is charged in Macomb County. Leaving the scene of an accident is a serious crime that can carry jail, a fine, court costs and 6 points. Leaving the scene of an accident causing an injury is more serious than leaving the scene of an accident causing only property damage. Leaving the scene of an accident cannot be expunged and will have a huge impact on future insurance premiums. A criminal record can lead to jeopardize personal rights such as right to travel into Canada or right to obtain a concealed permit to carry a handgun/CPL. A criminal offense or pattern of criminal behavior can also lead to deportation for non-US citizens. Pleading guilty to the offense of leaving the scene of an accident without a lawyer is a sure way to wind up with major regrets. In this publication, and others (Hiring a Lawyer to Fight Your Traffic Ticket: A Wise Long Term Investment), we explain why you should be proactive and get a lawyer if you are facing any criminal or non-criminal offense.
We have extensive experience handling misdemeanor and felony criminal and traffic matters in every Macomb County District Court:
- 37th District: Warren, Centerline
- 38th District: Eastpointe
- 39th District: Roseville, Fraser
- 40th District: St. Clair Shores
- 41-A District: Sterling Heights
- 41-A District: Shelby Township, Macomb Township, Utica
- 41-B District: Clinton Township, Harrison Township, Mount Clemens
- 42-1 District: Romeo, Washington Township, Armada, Richmond, Ray Township
- 42-2 District: New Baltimore, Chesterfield Township, Lenox Township, New Haven
Based upon our experience, we are providing you with this publication and information regarding the offense of “leaving the scene of an accident”.
Duties following an accident
A driver’s duties following an accident are set forth in MCL 257.619.
The driver of a vehicle who knows or who has reason to believe that he or she has been involved in an accident with an individual or with another vehicle that is operated or attended by another individual shall do all of the following:
Failing to comply with these duties or failing to stop and give identification at the scene of a crash or leaving the scene of an accident can result in criminal penalties along with administrative sanctions which are imposed by the Michigan Secretary of State.
Penalties for leaving the scene of an accident
Driving off after accident, leaving disabled vehicle at the scene
The police are not stupid. When the police find a disabled and abandoned vehicle that is not being claimed until the next day, they are automatically suspicious that the driver was drunk, left the scene to avoid being tested for alcohol and waited to claim the vehicle until after alcohol levels dropped below the legal limit for DUI. The police will typically put a hold on the vehicle until it is claimed and a statement is made by the owner/driver. This is where most think that they will beat the system by claiming that the vehicle was stolen or that is was taken by some unknown person that they met during the prior evening. Believe me, we have seen it all and so have the police. Contacting the police before retaining a lawyer in this scenario is a big mistake. It is far better to let the lawyer do damage control and do all of the talking rather than get caught lying to the police and charged with filing a false police report which may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor depending upon the circumstances.
Some other actual examples of cases where the police have caught someone leaving the scene of an accident:
- Police follow trail of leaking transmission fluid leading to the vehicle involved in an accident.
- Police follow snow tracks in a subdivision to the home where the vehicle was driven following an accident.
- Police obtain plate number from a witness at the scene of an accident.
Leaving the scene to avoid getting charged with drunk driving
Rather than get charged with drunk driving, an intoxicated person may choose to leave the scene of an accident and deal with the aftermath once sobriety is established. This all becomes an extremely frustrating experience for the offender which involves lies to family members, the police and the insurance company along with implicating friends that may be questioned in the future. Drunk driving is not the only reason that is given as the reason for leaving the scene of an accident. Other common reasons include driving with no insurance, driving while license suspended or because of an outstanding arrest warrant. Let us help you get your life under control if you have left the scene of an accident. DO NOT call the police and your insurance company and say that your car has been stolen. You will merely be exposing yourself to a felony charge and be asked to give more information such as the names of people that were with you and whether you consumed alcohol.
Leaving the scene and fleeing the police
The offense of leaving the scene of an accident is a misdemeanor. If leaving the scene also involves a police chase, the offender faces more serious charges known as fleeing and eluding which constitutes a felony.
What to do if you are charged or have left the scene
If you have received a citation for leaving the scene of an accident, contact a lawyer for representation in the court system. If you freaking out after leaving the scene of an accident and haven’t been caught yet, contact a lawyer to help you sort it out and establish a plan to cover the following matters:
- Whether or not you should talk to the police.
- Whether you should file an insurance claim.
- How the accident is reported to the insurance company.
- Getting your car out of the impound.
- Dealing with the court system (arraignment, bond, pretrial conference, trial).
NO, our attorneys will not tell the police that you were high or drunk the night before. We will give you a solid plan to deal with the police and the insurance company without ever getting charged with a DUI.
We hope you don’t get yourself in deep trouble by fleeing the police or for leaving the scene of an accident. If you find yourself in this position, do not hesitate to contact Macomb County criminal defense lawyers that KNOW the local authorities and can give you the best options any day of the week! Since most of these incidents happen on the weekends, we are here to take your call and determine if you should make a statement to the police. If you are still intoxicated, we will wait until you are thinking clearly to make legal decisions.