Leaving the scene of an accident is a serious traffic offense that not only affects a person’s driving record but can carry a range of penalties from prison time, hefty fines, and a license suspension period. In Chicago, a driver has a legal duty to report motor vehicle accidents to law enforcement. Failure to do so will result in severe charges.
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Your Legal Responsibilities After a Car Accident
Pursuant to Illinois state law, a person operating a motor vehicle involved in an accident must stop at the scene, exchange contact information, provide or request help for any injured persons, and must report the accident either by calling law enforcement to the scene or by giving notice of the accident to the local police department or nearest headquarters of the Chicago Police Department.
Failure to meet any or all of these responsibilities can result in being charged with leaving the scene of an accident which is a criminal offense punishable by jail time, fines, and loss of driving privileges. The severity of the punishment for leaving the scene of an accident can vary from a misdemeanor to a felony charge depending on the circumstances incident.
Penalties For Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Leaving the scene of a car accident also referred to as a hit and run can carry penalties of jail time, fines, license suspension, and misdemeanor or felony convictions. The severity of the punishment depends on several factors of the event. Factors include:
- Property damage
- The monetary amount of damage
If the incident involves only property damage, leaving the scene is considered a misdemeanor. If the incident involves injury or death, it is considered a felony offense.
Accident With an Unattended Vehicle
If a person operating a motor vehicle collides with a parked or unattended vehicle they must follow a series of steps to legally comply with the law. They must first stop their vehicle at the scene, doing their best to not obstruct traffic. Then they must attempt to locate the owner or operator of the vehicle.
If the owner or operator cannot be located, a written note that contains the name, address, and vehicle registration number of the offender must be securely attached in a conspicuous place to the unattended vehicle. Finally, the at-fault driver must report the accident to the nearest police department as soon as possible.
Any person who fails to comply with this duty will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a fine of up to $2500, and license suspension of up to one year if the property damage exceeds $1000.
Accident That Caused Property Damages
For property damage accidents where both drivers are present, they are obligated to follow the same steps. Both parties must stop at the scene. If both cars are operable, they must move vehicles to a safe location. For instance, pulling onto the shoulder of a highway or pulling into a parking lot if the accident was on a busy road.
The drivers must exchange information (name, registration, address, and/or insurance). They must file a police report if property damage exceeds $1500 or if one of the vehicles is uninsured and property damage exceeds $500. The collision can be reported by calling law enforcement to the scene or by notifying the local police office within 10 days.
A driver found guilty of leaving the scene involving property damage without injury will receive a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties include up to one year in jail, up to $2500 in fines, up to 2 years of probation, and up to one year of license suspension.
Accident That Caused Personal Injury
When a motor vehicle collision results in injury, a driver is legally obligated to render assistance to the injured party. The drivers must also pull over as close to the scene as possible, exchange information, and report the accident to the police. If a person involved is injured, other drivers or passengers are required to reasonably assist and protect the injured person. This could mean protecting them from traffic, comforting the injured party, and/or calling for emergency assistance. The injured person should never be moved as this may result in further injury for which you could be liable. In accidents involving injury, all parties must stay at the scene until the police arrive.
Failure to stop for an accident involving minor or serious injury is considered a Class 4 Felony. A Class 4 felony is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000, up to three years in prison, and loss of driving privileges. Additionally, failure to report the accident is considered a Class 2 felony and is punishable by a fine of up to $25,00, a prison sentence of 3-7 years, and revocation of driver’s license. If you are being charged with a hit and run involving minor or serious injury, contact a traffic lawyer for legal representation.
Accident That Resulted in Death
A person who fails to stop or report an accident resulting in death will be facing serious criminal charges. Failure to stop for such an event is considered a Class 4 felony punishable by 1-3 years in prison, up to a $25,000 fine, and revocation of license. Failure to report an accident resulting in death is classified as a Class 1 felony.
Penalties for a Class 1 felony include 4-15 years in prison, up to $25,000 in fines, and a driver’s license revocation. A Class 1 felony is the most serious crime an individual can commit. If you are facing charges for leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death, contact a traffic attorney immediately.
625 ILCS 5/11-403. Duty to give information and render aid.
The law in Chicago outlines the duty of a driver involved in a motor vehicle accident that results in property damage, injury, or death. The driver is required to provide their name, address, registration number, and information for the owner of the vehicle (if they are not the owner) to an occupant of the vehicle they struck. Legally the driver is obligated to render reasonable assistance, including contacting emergency agencies to provide the person with medical treatment, to any injured parties.
If none of the parties is able to receive or understand the contact information, and no police officer is present, the driver must report the accident to the nearest police station. Failure to stop, provide correct information, or render assistance is considered a violation of 625 ILCS 5/11-403.
How Can Police Prove You Were in a Hit and Run?
After a driver has left the scene of a collision, the other involved party may call the police. Upon arrival, the police will begin to gather evidence. They may gather eyewitness statements, victim statements, photographs of the scene, and any video evidence. All of these factors can lead to enough evidence to identify the vehicle involved which can lead to identifying the vehicle operator and thereby lead to an arrest. In today’s age of surveillance cameras, security cameras, and dash cams, it is a lot easier to identify vehicles involved in hit and runs.
If you are being charged with leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident contacting a criminal defense attorney is your best chance at minimizing your penalties. Contact Chicago Traffic Lawyers today for your free case review.