Unless it places you at significant risk of injury, the law in North Carolina states that you must stop your car at the scene of the crash and stay there until the law enforcement officer completes their investigation.
If you leave the scene of an accident that causes property damage, you will likely be charged with misdemeanor hit and run. If there is an injury at the scene, the criminal charges are more severe and can include felony hit and run.
Let’s look at what scenarios are possible with a hit and run that could cause jail time.
When It is Okay to Leave
There are only 2 reasons that are deemed okay for you to leave the scene of a hit and run.
These reasons include:
- If you need to remove yourself from the risk of significant injury
- When you need to call for medical assistance
If you leave for one of the above reasons, you must return in a reasonable period of time unless a law enforcement officer instructs you to go.
When There is No Injury
This type of hit and run can happen if you accidentally bump into a parked car with your car. If you can’t locate the driver in this case, it is okay to leave your name, number, driver’s license number, license plate number, and address on a piece of paper under their windshield wiper. However, if someone is in the car that you hit and you don’t stop, you could face trouble with the law.
Anytime someone is in a vehicle you hit, even if you barely tap the vehicle, they can go to a doctor or chiropractor and claim bodily injury. If you left the scene of an accident with bodily injury, you could face a felony hit and run charge.
Even if you are only charged with a misdemeanor, a hit and run is punishable by up to 120 days in jail and criminal fines. With bodily injury, if you willfully leave the scene without a law enforcement officer’s permission, you could face a Class F felony hit and run.
If the Property is Not a Car
If you hit a guardrail, utility pole, or other fixed object owned by the Department of Transportation, a public utility, or other public service corporation, you can send the required information about yourself by certified mail with a return receipt to the NCDMV within 5 days. Not sending your details to the NCDMV can result in a Class 1 misdemeanor charge. You can also contact a law enforcement officer if that is easier.
You Can Lose Your License
If you don’t go to jail, the NCDMV can revoke your license for up to 2 years if you are convicted with a hit and run. Jail time is bad, but losing your license can also be difficult. If it is your first conviction of a hit and run offense, a judge may allow you limited driving privileges, but you must make an application for this privilege as it is not automatic.
With a class 1 misdemeanor, you can face from 1 to 120 days in jail. This depends on how the judge rules in your case. It also depends on your prior criminal record. With no prior convictions, your longest sentence is likely to be 45 days. The length of the sentence goes up with your number of prior convictions.
If your hit and run involves bodily injury and you are convicted of a Class F felony, you could expect to spend from 10 to 41 months in prison. This again depends on your judge and whether you have a prior criminal record. Repeat offenders serve more time.
Generally, accidents and tickets stay on your driving record for three years before falling off. A hit-and-run charge will generally stay on your driving record for 10 years.
You will also accumulate SDIP points on your driver’s license that will cause your insurance rates to go up. A Hit-and-run that results in bodily injury or death can cost you 12 points which equals a 340% increase in your insurance payments. If you were paying $100 per month before, you would now pay $340 per month.
However, if no one was injured in the accident, it is possible to apply for an expungement of a criminal misdemeanor only 5 years after your sentence is completed so that you no longer have a criminal record.
Best Possible Outcome
With a well-thought-out defense, you are less likely to spend time in jail. Contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney is the best way to have your charges dismissed before they turn into a conviction. Once you are in the criminal system and have a record, life is harder. Getting a job, finding employment, or getting an apartment can all be problematic.
Your best defense against criminal traffic charges is a good offense. Don’t let one mistake ruin your life. Contact Hopler, Wilms, and Hanna today to get started making a defense plan against your charges. Our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys know how to work with the criminal justice system to fight for your rights. We are on your side and will fight for you.