Have you ever been in an accident and, without thinking about your actions, left the scene before giving anyone -- the other driver or property owner -- information about yourself and/or your auto insurance? Many of us have been there, in an accident, and know how anxiety can inhibit logical thinking. Good people who mean no ill will can do this: freeze and then respond quickly and irrationally. That doesn't mean you should be fined fees and, possibly, spend time in jail. In Texas, however, all drivers owe each other the duty that -- if in an accident with each other and there is property damage and/or injuries -- the drivers will share specific information with each other and render aid, if necessary. If you are in an accident and fail to stop and give statutorily required information, then you risk criminal charges.
Many drivers think they'll get away with a hit-and-run, and they do. But others do not. A witness or some piece of evidence found in the debris may provide enough clues suggest you -- or at least your vehicle -- was involved in the crash. The police may come looking for you, and when they do (or even if you suspect they are), seek legal counsel immediately. The sooner you have legal representation the sooner the matter can be addressed. An experienced lawyer will be able to negotiate successfully on your behalf. Contact Doug Murphy today to review your case.
Reason Drivers Fail to Give Information
There are various reasons drivers leave the scene of an accident even when there are no injuries, and thus, generally no risk of arrest if at-fault for the accident. In most instances, drivers who leave the scene without giving the proper information do so for no other reason than fear of the consequences of being found liable for the accident. Others, however, may have more specific reasons for fleeing the scene without providing adequate information, and these reasons are:
- Having no auto insurance.
- Driving on a suspended license.
- Driving intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Driving intoxicated and already have one or more DWI convictions.
- Being an illegal immigrant.
- Having committed some other illegal activity.
If any of the above reasons are associated with fleeing the scene of an accident without providing the proper information, then a defense is more complicated.
Hit & Run: Failure to Stop & Give Information, the Offense
Under the Texas Transportation Code Ann. § 550.022, a driver who damages another vehicle or other property must immediately -- along with any other drivers:
- Stop the vehicle at the scene of the collision or as close as possible so that you do not obstruct more traffic than necessary. If the vehicle is operable and the accident occurred in the main lane, or on a ramp, shoulder, median, or adjacent areas of a highway or freeway, you should move the vehicle to a safer area.
- Remain at the scene to provide the required information in accordance with § 550.023.
According to Tex. Transp. Code § 550.023, any driver involved in an accident in Texas must stop and give the following information to the other driver, vehicle occupant, or any person injured:
- The vehicle operator's name;
- The vehicle operator's address;
- The name of the operator's insurance company;
- The registered number of the vehicle;
- Show the operator's driver's license if requested and available; and/or
- Provide any person injured in the accident assistance, including transporting the person to a hospital or doctor for treatment if apparent the treatment is necessary or if the person requests transportation.
On the other hand, if the driver struck an unattended vehicle or a structure, there are additional statutory instructions regarding how to proceed in order to provide the required information and prevent criminal charges.
- Duty on Striking Unattended Vehicle, Tex. Transp. Code § 550.024. If you operate a vehicle and collide with an unattended vehicle and cause damage to it, you must stop and either The operator of a vehicle that collides with and damages an unattended vehicle must immediately stop and either locate the operator or owner of the unattended, damaged vehicle to give the required information, or leave the required information on paper or other means and secure or attach it in a place where the operator or owner of that vehicle will be able to find it without any problem.
- Duty on Striking Structure, Fixture, or Highway Landscaping, Tex. Transp. Code § 550.025. If you operate a vehicle and collide into and damage a structure adjacent to a highway or a fixture or landscaping legally on or adjacent to a highway must take reasonable steps to find and inform the owner of the property and provide the required statutory information, and, if requested, provide his or her driver's license number. According to Tex. Transp. Code § 550.061, if the operator of the vehicle is unable to locate the owner of the property, then he or she must report the accident and damage.
Hit & Run: Failure to Stop & Give Information, some Defenses
Failure to stop and give information is a problem for the persons whose vehicles or property was damaged. Law enforcement will investigate the scene and treat it as a crime. They will review the evidence, and if anything points to you or your vehicle, they will either attempt to contact you for questioning with the intent to acquire an admission, or they will -- if the evidence mandates it -- obtain a warrant for your arrest. Hit-and-run crimes are treated seriously, but you should keep in mind, at no time are you obligated to speak to law enforcement. If you feel pressure to speak, advise them that you want to speak to your lawyer. Contact Doug Murphy at your earliest convenience so that he can begin preparations for your case.
If it so happens that the police obtain enough evidence and arrest you, Doug Murphy will use his resources and experience to investigate the matter and strategize your defense. Possible defenses include:
- You were not operating the vehicle. The State must not establish that the vehicle is yours, but that you were operating the vehicle at the time of the accident. If you were not driving, or if our lawyer can establish that you were not driving the vehicle, then you did not commit the crime.
- You did not intentionally fail to provide the required information. There are sometimes reasons beyond your control that make it impossible or difficult to provide the required statutory information. For example, maybe you struck your head during the collision and passed out. Maybe there was a passenger in your vehicle and that passenger became worried about your well-being and moved behind the wheel to drive you to the hospital. In such cases, you did not intentionally neglect your duty to stop and provide information after an accident.
- You did not have sufficient knowledge of any damage. If you had no knowledge or reason to know that the other vehicle or property was damaged, then you owed no duty to stop and provide the statutorily required information. The element to prove here is if you knew or not about the damage or you should have reasonably known about the damage. For example, maybe you lightly hit a vehicle in front of you at a traffic light. You both stepped out and inspected the vehicles and saw no damage. Yet, when the other driver was home, he inspected it a bit more thoroughly and found damage. In this instance, if the police track you down, you have a defense against failure to stop and render information.
A thoughtful and strategic defense is key to getting your case dismissed. You, however, require an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you do that. Doug Murphy has been practicing law for nearly two decades. He has a reputation for getting results, and his accolades attest to it. In fact, Doug Murphy is only one of two attorneys in the state of Texas who is Board-certified in both criminal defense and DWI. Board-certification in one practice area is difficult enough because it requires fulfillment of a list of rigorous qualifications; two Board-certifications underscores his legal capabilities.
Hit & Run: Failure to Stop & Give Information, the Penalties
If you speak to the police and admit you were in the accident, or if you do not seek legal counsel or representation by an experienced criminal lawyer, you could face a conviction. Generally leaving the scene of an accident or collision and failing to stop and give information is a Class C or B misdemeanor. Depending on the misdemeanor class, you can expect the following penalties if convicted:
- A fine not more than $500 if the property damage was to a vehicle and the damage was less than $200 (Class C misdemeanor);
- A fine not more than $2,000 and/or jail up to 180 days if the property damage was to a vehicle and the damage was more than $200 (Class B misdemeanor);
- A fine not more than $500 if the property damage was to an unattended vehicle and the damage was less than $200 (Class C misdemeanor);
- A fine not more than $2,000 and/or jail up to 180 days if the property damage was to an unattended vehicle and the damage was more than $200 (Class B misdemeanor);
- A fine not more than $500 if the property damage was to a fixture or landscaping on a highway and the damage was less than $200 (Class C misdemeanor);
- A fine not more than $2,000 and/or jail up to 180 days if the property damage was to a fixture or landscaping on a highway and the damage was more than $200 (Class B misdemeanor).
Hit-and-Run Lawyer in Houston, Texas
You have a constitutional right to remain silent, and you have the right to an attorney. If you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident and failing to stop and provide contact, vehicle and insurance information, contact Doug Murphy Law Firm today. Doug Murphy devotes resources and hid practice to defend and protect your rights. We have decades of proven experience and a reputation earned in the courtroom for successful results. Attorney Doug Murphy is a Board certified criminal defense lawyer and a Board-certified DWI lawyer who not only fights on behalf of his clients but constantly gives back to the legal community to teach other attorneys how to do the same. Contact Doug Murphy online or at 713-229-8333 today to discuss the circumstances of your case.