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Failing to Stop and Provide Aid in a Houston Hit & Run Incident

What Are the Consequences of Failure to Stop and Render Aid (FSRA)

Leaving the scene of an accident, even if you didn't cause it, is illegal in Texas if it causes property damage or injuries. The law requires that a person give certain information to others involved in an accident and render aid if someone has been injured or killed. Failing to stop and render aid is more serious than failing to give information for obvious reasons. If you have been charged in Texas with the act of hit and run, leaving the scene of an accident, also known as failing to stop and give information or failing to stop and render aid (FSRA), then you need experienced and Board Certified criminal defense lawyer Doug Murphy.

While the law is tough in these situations, there are defenses. An experienced criminal defense lawyer who analyzes each case thoughtfully is qualified to help you win your case. Doug Murphy is that lawyer. He is a Board Certified criminal defense lawyer committed to winning. He's proven his capabilities and, now, when not defending fellow Texans, he is training other lawyers to defend their clients and maximize successful outcomes.

Hit-and-run cases are difficult and require a comprehensive approach to each circumstance. Doug Murphy addresses his strategy from multiple angles, getting the best possible results for his clients.

Hit & Run: Failure to Stop & Render Aid

Texas Transportation Code Ann. § 550.021 instructs all drivers directly after an accident involving injury or death to:

  • Stop driving and park the vehicle at the scene of the accident;
  • Stop and park the vehicle without obstructing traffic more than what is necessary;
  • Return to the accident if the driver failed to stop the vehicle initially; and
  • Remain with the vehicle accident scene until you've provided necessary information and have rendered any necessary aid.

What Aid Must I Render After an Accident?

According to Texas Transportation Code § 550.023, the driver of a vehicle who is involved in an accident that results in the injury or death of another person must provide reasonable assistance, including transporting or calling 911, if it is evident that treatment is necessary or the injured party requests a physician or hospital. You must stop and render aid even if you did not cause the accident. Thus, if you're in an accident where someone may have been injured, you need to stop and assist that person and ensure they receive appropriate care.

According to the same law, the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident that damages another vehicle must also stop and give relevant information to any person injured or operating a vehicle involved in the accident. You'll need to share the following:

  • Name;
  • Address;
  • Registration number of the vehicle they were driving;
  • Name and contact information of the insurance company; and, if requested,
  • Driver's license number.

Combined, these actions are known as a motorist's duty to give information and render aid. In Texas, if you fail to stop and render aid, it is a criminal offense with potential felony charges.

Leaving the Scene for Fear of Police

If you have been in a hit-and-run, you likely have many questions. Studies have shown that people in hit-and-runs leave the scene because they are scared of the consequences. They may make a rash decision, thinking they can get away with it if they quickly leave the scene. Unfortunately, an accident will have more serious consequences if you leave and the police catch you. The police in Texas take hit-and-runs seriously and will pursue any leads they have, especially if someone dies in the accident. You may have heard a story or two, or you just may be worried, confused, or scared. Likewise, you probably have many questions about the police and the consequences of a hit-and-run.

Police Investigation Process for Hit & Run

The police will collect eyewitness accounts, survey the accident area, review any available surveillance cameras, and interview any parties to the accident, including injured parties, among other investigative tools. Sometimes, the evidence doesn't lead to the guilty party, but the case remains open. Other times, the police will obtain a lead, a name, and an address. When that happens, they may come for you.

If they see your car in a parking lot, they can identify or assess any damage to your vehicle that may prove consistent with the accident. This fact may scare you even more, but do not let it. Finding you and your vehicle is the easier part of the process. They must prove you were actually driving the car at the time of the accident. Ownership of the vehicle does not imply guilt; you could have permitted a friend or family member to use the vehicle. The prosecutor must establish that you or someone else was driving the vehicle. The easiest means to that end is to "persuade" you to admit it.

Admission to driving the vehicle will result in an arrest and a citation. The prosecution will still need to prove that you actually were in an accident and left the scene. This may lead to a conviction. Your best option to prevent arrest and subsequent conviction is simple: do not speak to the police. If you feel you must say something, tell the police you need to speak with your attorney before responding to their questions.

What Should I Do if the Police Contact Me?

If the police are at your door knocking, do not answer. If they call you, politely advise them that you need to speak to a lawyer first. If they left a message, do not call back without speaking with an experienced, Board Certified criminal defense lawyer. Even if the police send you a formal letter requesting you come to the station for questioning, do not respond to the letter either in kind or by going to the station at the requested time. You are not obligated to open the door, speak to them on the phone, or respond by letter. You must let them in only if they have a search warrant. If they have an arrest warrant, they may arrest you. But you do not have to talk to them—demand to speak with a lawyer first.

Does it Look Worse if I Don't Respond to the Police?

No, but you could make it worse for yourself if you speak to them and provide evidence against yourself, especially if you are not represented by an experienced lawyer with your best interest in mind. The police cannot do anything if you refuse to talk to them. If they end up citing you for the accident and a hit-and-run offense, it would have likely occurred whether you spoke to them or not. You should immediately contact Board Certified criminal defense lawyer Doug Murphy before speaking with the police.

Hit & Run Defenses in Texas

To protect your rights and help prevent a criminal record, several defenses can be used to fight a charge for leaving the scene of an accident and failing to stop and render aid.

1. It Wasn't You

This defense is the most obvious. If it wasn't you, then it wasn't you. Maybe someone drove your vehicle, whether borrowed or stolen. Only the vehicle's driver can be convicted; you cannot be convicted for someone else's actions, even if it was your vehicle. You may have a defense if your lawyer can establish that someone else was driving your vehicle during the accident.

2. Emergency Situations

Maybe there was an emergency. For example, you were driving in response to an emergency and accidentally hit another object but had to keep going. For example, maybe you were transporting a child with a life-threatening illness to the emergency room. Courts strictly review these situations, but they can, if proven, be a valid defense.

3. Insufficient Knowledge of an Injury

Sometimes, someone operating a vehicle may not even realize they struck something. The roads could be bad, or weather conditions could make seeing difficult. To be convicted, you must have known or reasonably known that an injury or death resulted from the accident. Sometimes, injuries are not apparent until hours or days after the accident occurs. Maybe the accident caused no visible property damage, and the drivers and passengers all felt fine, with no apparent injuries. Still, one day later, a passenger's shoulder began to hurt, and it turned out they pulled a ligament. Or, more seriously, the other driver hit their head, but it wasn't obvious, and they said they were fine. If the other driver later dies from a brain bleed, you may not have reasonably known they were injured.

4. Involuntary Intoxication

In many instances, involuntary intoxication may not be a valid defense, but imagine if you were given the wrong medication before getting behind the wheel and then had an adverse reaction to the medication. If a medical practitioner inadvertently gave you the wrong medicine or you were not properly informed of the side effects of the medicine prescribed to you, then depending on the facts and the severity of the effect, you may have a valid defense.

5. Inability to Render Aid

If someone or something prevented you from rendering aid, you should not be held criminally responsible. For example, if you're involved in an accident, and someone in another vehicle points a gun at you, and you leave the scene, you likely have a defense to a hit-and-run charge.

As you can see, these are difficult defenses to prove, but an experienced criminal defense lawyer will know how and when to use the defense if appropriate and accurate to do so. A lot goes into making a good defense work, especially for a hit-and-run scenario. Having a defense isn't the same as having a defense strategy. An experienced attorney knows how to use the circumstances of your case to optimize successful negotiations or, if necessary, a successful trial defense.

Penalties for Hit & Run in Texas

If you leave the scene of an accident, and someone was either seriously injured or died in the accident, you could be charged with a third-degree felony. Under § 12.34 of the Texas Penal Code, a conviction carries a fine of up to $10,000 and prison between two and ten years. If the injury is not serious, a conviction could mean a fine of up to $5,000 and one year in a county jail or up to five years in state prison. Failure to stop and render aid (FSRA) is different from other crimes in Texas, because the punishment varies depending on the facts of the accident and the severity of the injuries.

Contact Our Harris County Hit and Run Defense Attorney

Facing an arrest due to the suspicion that you left the scene of an accident or failed to render aid to an injured person is a scary experience. At the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., we devote our resources and capabilities to defending our clients' rights. We have decades of proven experience and a reputation earned in the courtroom for successful results. Attorney Doug Murphy is highly experienced in criminal defense and DWI defense, with Board Certifications in Criminal Defense Law and DWI Defense Law. He fights on behalf of his clients and constantly gives back to the legal community, sharing his knowledge with other attorneys. U.S. News and World Report's Best Lawyers in America have also named Doug a "Lawyer of the Year" for Houston DWI Defense. Contact Doug Murphy online or at 713-229-8333 today to see how he can help you.

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