The Consequences of a Hit-and-Run
No one likes the thought of being involved in car accidents. They are dangerous, inconvenient and can change the lives of everyone involved in numerous ways. It is not uncommon for some individuals to flee the scene of accidents to avoid dealing with the police. If you find yourself in a similar circumstance, it is best for you to stay at the scene of the accident. Regardless of what you feel is more important at the time, never leave the scene without waiting for law enforcement is the moment you have committed a crime. Hit-and-run accidents are not always easy to deal with. It also does not matter if you caused the accident, are an innocent bystander or hit a person or some property. Leaving a car accident without making a report, exchanging proper information or helping those who may require it can land you in jail and a criminal record.
leaving the scene of the accident “Hit and Run” or "leaving the scene of the accident" refers to the criminal charges that a person could face for failing to comply with their legal duties set forth in South Carolina Code Section 56-5-1210 through 565-1250 for different types of accidents.
What are Your Legal Duties after an Accident?
Duty to give information and render aid. (56-5-1230)
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or damage to any vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall give his name, address and the registration number of the vehicle he is driving and shall upon request and if available exhibit his driver's license to the person struck or the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle collided with and shall render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the carrying or making arrangements for the carrying of such person to a physician, surgeon or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such carrying is requested by the injured person.
Duties of driver involved in accident resulting in damage to attended vehicles. (56-5-1220)
The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to a vehicle which is driven or attended by a person immediately shall stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible, but shall return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until he has fulfilled the requirements of Section 56-5-1230. However, he may temporarily leave the scene to report the accident to the proper authorities. A person who fails to stop or comply with the requirements of this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than one year or fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five thousand dollars, or both.
If a disabled vehicle or a vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to a vehicle is obstructing traffic, the driver of the vehicle shall make every reasonable effort to move any vehicle that is capable of being driven safely off the roadway as defined by Section 56-5-460 so as not to block the flow of traffic. The driver or any other person who has moved a motor vehicle to facilitate the flow of traffic as provided in this subsection before the arrival of a law enforcement officer shall not be considered liable or at fault regarding the cause of the accident solely by reason of moving the vehicle pursuant to this section.
Duties of driver involved in accident involving unattended vehicle. (56-5-1240)
The driver of any vehicle which collides with any vehicle which is unattended shall immediately stop and shall then and there either locate and notify the operator or owner of such vehicle of the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle striking the unattended vehicle or shall leave in a conspicuous place in the vehicle struck a written notice giving the name and address of the driver and of the owner of the vehicle doing the striking and a statement of the circumstances thereof.
Duties of drivers involved in accident resulting in death or personal injury (56-5-1210)
The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or the death of a person immediately shall stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible. He then shall return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until he has fulfilled the requirements of Section 56-5-1230. However, he may temporarily leave the scene to report the accident to the proper authorities. The stop must be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.
Duties of driver striking fixtures upon or adjacent to highway. (56-5-1250)
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to fixtures legally upon or adjacent to a highway shall take reasonable steps to locate and notify the owner or person in charge of such property of such fact and of his name and address and of the registration number of the vehicle he is driving and shall upon request and if available exhibit his driver's license and shall make report of such accident when and as required in Section 56-5-1270.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident is a Serious Crime
The penalties for hit-and-run accidents range from misdemeanors to felony charges. Some people believe misdemeanors are minor issues that cannot have a significant impact on their lives. This usually happens in situations where no one was hurt and there was little to no property damage. Of course, when there are children in the vehicles, a significant amount of property damage and/or death, the penalties increase substantially based upon the occupancy and injuries as stated below:
Property Damage only (unattended vehicle)
|Misdemeanor||At least 30 days or $100 fine|
Property Damage only (attended vehicle)
|Misdemeanor||Up to 1 year jail time or $100 to $5,000 fine|
Minor Personal Injury
|Misdemeanor||30 days – 1 year jail time or $100 to $5,000 fine|
Great Bodily Injury
|Felony||30 days - 10 years jail time and $5,000 to $10,000 fine|
|Felony||1-25 years jail time and $10,000 to $25,000 fine|
Can Cause You to Lose Your Driving Privileges
Keep in mind that leaving the scene of an accident can also result in the immediate suspension of your driving privileges. If the accident also leads to someone suffering great bodily harm or dies, your license will be rescinded. In cases where there is only property damage, you may be able to retain your driving privileges if the points you receive for the crime do not cause the total number of points on your driving record to reach the threshold for suspension.
Evidentiary use of reports
Also, it is important to remember that the accident report cannot be used as evidence of negligence or due care at trial, so leaving the scene of an accident will only make your legal troubles worse. It may seem like it is the end of the world if you find yourself in a situation where you acted before thinking. Hit-and-run charges may seem challenging to overcome. Things may seem uncertain, you might not feel sure of what you should do. You can still live your life and plan for the future. The right defense attorney and strategy can help you to get a lighter sentence, protect your driving record, avoid a criminal record and having your license suspended.