Automobile accidents are occurrences everyone wishes to avoid—though it seems every day more difficult to escape collisions on the Jersey Shore's busy streets. When accidents do happen and a driver is distraught afterwards, it's possible he or she may leave the scene while overcome with panic. We have all seen this happen on the news, so you should know that it is against the law to do so. Under New Jersey law, a driver must immediately stop and remain at the scene after an accident occurs. Otherwise, you have just opened yourself up to liability for a “hit and run.”
A “hit and run” guilty conviction can leave you with hefty fines and even possible jail time. Under N.J.S.A. 39:4-129, there are certain rules drivers must follow after an accident. First and foremost, the driver must not leave the scene. This is true even if the collision only involved the driver's car alone.
The roads at the Jersey Shore become congested during the summer months. If you have rear ended another car, you must stop and give your name and information to the driver of the damaged vehicle, a law enforcement officer, or the injured person at the scene of the accident. Imagine a situation in which a driver strikes a pedestrian crossing the street from one of the many Boardwalks at the Shore. If the driver causes serious injury in the course of the accident, leaving the scene can actually result in third degree criminal charges.
If you have been charged with hit and run, you will need a traffic offense attorney to help you defend your rights. Our traffic law attorneys at Villani & DeLuca P.C. have successfully guided countless clients through their legal battles. Call our office today for a free initial consultation, in which you may tell your story to one of our experienced attorneys.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident (N.J.S.A. 39:4-129)
Leaving the scene of an accident is addressed in N.J.S.A. 39:4-129. The statute describes different situations commonly found in accident scenes. It reads:
(a) The driver of any vehicle, knowingly involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close thereto as possible but shall then forthwith return to and in every event shall remain at the scene until he has fulfilled the requirements of subsection (c) of this section. Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. Any person who shall violate this subsection shall be fined not less than $2,500 nor more than $5,000, or be imprisoned for a period of 180 days, or both. The term of imprisonment required by this subsection shall be imposed only if the accident resulted in death or injury to a person other than the driver convicted of violating this section.
In addition, any person convicted under this subsection shall forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of one year from the date of his conviction for the first offense and for a subsequent offense shall thereafter permanently forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State.
(b) The driver of any vehicle knowingly involved in an accident resulting only in damage to a vehicle, including his own vehicle, or other property which is attended by any person shall immediately stop his vehicle at the scene of such accident or as close thereto as possible, but shall then forthwith return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of such accident until he has fulfilled the requirements of subsection (c) of this section. Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. Any person who shall violate this subsection shall be fined not less than $200 nor more than $400, or be imprisoned for a period of not more than 30 days, or both, for the first offense, and for a subsequent offense, shall be fined not less than $400 nor more than $600, or be imprisoned for a period of not less than 30 days nor more than 90 days or both.
In addition, a person who violates this subsection shall, for a first offense, forfeit the right to operate a motor vehicle in this State for a period of six months from the date of conviction, and for a period of one year from the date of conviction for any subsequent offense.
(c) The driver of any vehicle knowingly involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person or damage to any vehicle or property shall give his name and address and exhibit his operator's license and registration certificate of his vehicle to the person injured or whose vehicle or property was damaged and to any police officer or witness of the accident, and to the driver or occupants of the vehicle collided with and render to a person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including the carrying of that person to a hospital or a physician for medical or surgical treatment, if it is apparent that the treatment is necessary or is requested by the injured person.
In the event that none of the persons specified are in condition to receive the information to which they otherwise would be entitled under this subsection, and no police officer is present, the driver of any vehicle involved in such accident after fulfilling all other requirements of subsections (a) and (b) of this section, insofar as possible on his part to be performed, shall forthwith report such accident to the nearest office of the local police department or of the county police of the county or of the State Police and submit thereto the information specified in this subsection.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
If the accident results in damage to property or another vehicle, the driver will face the penalty of a fine ranging from $200 to $400 and possible jail time up to 3 months. The driver may also lose his or her license for six months after their first offense. If a subsequent hit and run occurs, the driver may have their license suspended for a year.
For leaving the scene where a person was injured or died, the driver can be fined between $2,500 to $5,000 and face jail time up to 6 months. The driver will also lose his or her license for one year from the date of conviction. If a subsequent conviction occurs, the driver will lose his or her New Jersey driver's license permanently. Criminal charges may also result from this situation, resulting in a prison sentence.
Drivers involved in a hit and run are subject to several additional penalties. Points will be added to the driver's motor vehicle—if there are no personal injuries, two points will be added, and if there are injuries, eight points will be added. If no one can be identified as the driver of the vehicle involved in the accident, responsibility is assigned to the person who is the registered owner of the vehicle. Of course, after a traffic offense, the offender's insurance premiums will rise.
Defending A Hit And Run Accident
If you are facing charges for leaving the scene of an accident under New Jersey's hit and run statute, you should speak with a traffic offense attorney as soon as possible. The penalties for a hit and run accident depend on many factors and the number of charges can increase depending on the severity of the accident.