Articles Tagged with drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident

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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:

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:

  (a) Give his or her name and address, and the registration number of the vehicle he or she is operating, including the name and address of the owner, to a police officer, the individual struck, or the driver or occupants of the vehicle with which he or she has collided.
  (b) Exhibit his or her operator’s or chauffeur’s license to a police officer, individual struck, or the driver or occupants of the vehicle with which he or she has collided.
  (c) Render to any individual injured in the accident reasonable assistance in securing medical aid or arrange for or provide transportation to any injured individual.

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 

Jail-time, losing your license, insurance issues and getting stuck in the court system for up to 2 years while on probation are all possible penalties for leaving the scene of an accident. Leaving the scene of an accident causing a personal injury can carry up to 1 year in jail.
Subject to a few exceptions, it is a crime to leave the scene of an accident. MCL 257.618 provides as follows:
(1) The driver of a vehicle who knows or who has reason to believe that he has been involved in an accident upon public or private property that is open to travel by the public shall immediately stop his or her vehicle at the scene of the accident and shall remain there until the requirements of section 619 are fulfilled or immediately report the accident to the nearest or most convenient police agency or officer to fulfill the requirements of section 619(a) and (b) if there is a reasonable and honest belief that remaining at the scene will result in further harm. The stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.
(2) If an individual violates the requirements of subsection (1) and the accident results in damage to a vehicle operated by or attended by any individual, the individual is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days or a fine of not more than $100.00, or both.
Contacting a Macomb County criminal defense lawyer should be your first order of business if you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident or if you expect to be charged, have abandoned your vehicle or otherwise fled from the scene of an accident. It is a defense to this crime if a person was not aware that an accident occurred or remaining at the scene will result in further harm or obstruct traffic more than is necessary.

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.

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