Are You Allowed to Leave the Scene of an Accident in Arizona?
Car accidents can be a scary and stressful experience for anyone involved. The first thing that comes to mind after an accident is the safety and well-being of those involved. The second thought is usually the legal obligations that are involved in car accidents, especially if someone has been injured.
One of the most important legal obligations that drivers have in Arizona is to remain at the scene of an accident. In this blog post, our team at Brandon White Law will explore what constitutes a hit-and-run accident in Arizona, the duties of care that Arizona drivers owe after causing car accidents, why it's important not to leave the scene of an accident, and much more.
What Constitutes Hit and Run Accidents in Arizona?
A hit-and-run accident occurs when a driver causes an accident and then leaves the scene without fulfilling their legal duties. According to Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 28-662 and 28-663 and Arizona law, drivers involved in an accident resulting in damage to a vehicle, injury, or death must immediately stop at the accident scene or as close as possible to it without obstructing traffic. The driver must remain at the scene until they have provided their name, address, registration number, and insurance information to the other party involved. Failure to do so is considered a hit-and-run accident and it can result in serious consequences.
The Arizona statute ARS § 28-663 outlines specific duties that motorists owe each other in the event of an auto accident. These duties include:
- Duty to stop: Motorists must stop if they were involved in an accident that resulted in property damage or injuries to other persons;
- Duty to share specific information: The information required to be shared at the scene of the accident includes the driver's name, address, and vehicle registration number. Upon request, motorists must also share their driver's license number and auto insurance information;
- Duty to render aid: If a person is injured in the accident, Arizona drivers must provide reasonable medical assistance if requested by the injured party or if obvious medical attention is needed. This includes arranging for the injured person to be taken to a facility for medical or surgical treatment.
What Duties of Care Do Arizona Drivers Owe After Causing Car Accidents?
Arizona drivers have to care for others on the road, including pedestrians, other drivers, and passengers. After causing an accident, Arizona drivers must stop their vehicles and assist anyone who has been injured. If there's a serious physical injury, drivers must immediately stop and call for medical assistance. Additionally, drivers must contact the police and report the accident.
Why It's Important Not to Leave the Scene of an Accident
Leaving the scene of an accident is a serious offense in Arizona. Hit-and-run accidents can result in criminal charges, hefty fines, and potential jail time. In addition to the legal consequences, leaving the scene of an accident can have serious moral and ethical implications. Fleeing the scene can leave victims stranded and without any means of getting the help they need.
Exceptions to the Duty to Stop and Remain at the Scene of an Accident
There are some exceptions to the duty to stop and remain at the scene of an accident. If a driver is involved in a minor accident and there's no apparent damage or injury, they may be able to exchange information with the other driver and leave the scene. Additionally, if a driver is in a dangerous situation, such as a car fire or an impending explosion, they may leave the scene to protect themselves and others.
Hit and Run Accident Statistics in Arizona State
In 2017, the Arizona Department of Transportation recorded 15,014 hit-and-run accidents. Among these, 2,900 caused injuries, 64 resulted in fatalities, while the remaining 12,050 caused only property damage. Pedestrians and cyclists are the two most common victims of hit-and-run accidents. Multiple-vehicle accidents typically cause significant damage, preventing the drivers from fleeing the scene. The rapid growth of the state is one of the reasons for the high rate of hit-and-run accidents in Arizona. These numbers underline the importance of remaining at the scene of an accident and fulfilling legal obligations.
What to Do If You're Involved in a Hit and Run Accident?
The steps to take after this type of accident depend on whether you're the victim or the person who left the scene.
What Should You Do If You Fled the Scene of an Accident?
Fleeing the scene of an accident, although wrong, is a common impulse that can result in severe penalties. It's crucial to understand that leaving the scene of an accident is a serious offense. If you find yourself in such a situation, it's important to contact an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney. They can help you understand your legal rights and guide you through the process of making things right while still protecting your interests. Don't hesitate to reach out to a trusted criminal defense attorney who can defend your case and help you minimize the legal consequences.
What to Do If You're the Victim of a Hit-and-Run Accident?
If you're involved in a hit-and-run car accident, it's important to stay calm and take immediate action to protect yourself and any other parties involved. Here are some steps to take:
- First and foremost, seek any necessary medical treatment;
- Don't chase after the other driver, as it can put you and others at risk;
- Move your vehicle to a safe location off the road, if possible;
- Call the police and report the accident, providing as much information as possible;
- Take note of the other driver's vehicle make and model, license plate number and/or state, color, and any distinguishing features. If possible take photos of all vehicles involved;
- If possible, obtain a physical description of the driver;
- Look for any witnesses to the accident and obtain their contact information;
- Take photos of the damage to your vehicle and any other vehicles involved, as well as the surrounding area;
- Contact our experienced personal injury attorneys who can help you understand your rights and options for seeking compensation for any damages or injuries sustained in the accident.
By taking these steps, you can help ensure that the hit-and-run driver is held accountable and that you have the information you need for insurance and legal purposes.
How Long After a Hit and Run Accident Can You Be Charged?
All crimes have a statute of limitations, and the less severe the crime, the shorter the duration of time law enforcement has to legally apprehend the suspect. A typical hit-and-run involving property damage has a statute of limitations. However, if a more serious crime was committed during the hit-and-run, such as murder, there's no statute of limitations and the suspect can be apprehended at any time. The severity of the incident also affects how actively the police search for the suspect.
Differences Between Civil and Criminal Cases for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
In Arizona, leaving the scene of an accident, even if it's a parked car, can result in both civil and criminal charges. Civil charges can include lawsuits from the victims of the accident seeking compensation for damages and injuries. In addition, the police can bring forward criminal charges which can range from misdemeanors to felonies, depending on the severity of the accident and the injuries sustained.
Can You Go to Jail for Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Arizona?
Leaving the scene of an accident in Arizona can lead to severe legal consequences, including jail time, fines, and other penalties. Here's what you need to know:
Hit and Run Misdemeanors
- Failure to comply with the duty to give information and assistance per ARS § 28-663 is a class 3 misdemeanor with a maximum of 30 days in jail and a fine of $500;
- Failure to stop and leave the scene of an accident involving damage to another vehicle is a class 2 misdemeanor with a maximum of four months in jail and a $750 fine.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident Felonies
- Leaving the scene of an accident involving physical injuries or death is a felony;
- Leaving the scene of an accident involving injury other than death or serious injury is a class 5 felony with a nine-month to two-year jail term and a $750 fine. A three-year driver's license revocation is also imposed;
- Leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious injury or death is a class 3 or 2 felony, respectively. A class 3 felony carries two and a half to seven years in jail and a $750 fine, while a class 2 felony has a four to ten-year jail term and a $750 fine;
- A hit-and-run accident resulting in serious injury results in a five-year license revocation, and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death carries a 10-year license revocation.
Felonies in Arizona carry additional sanctions such as ineligibility for certain professional opportunities or government assistance, and loss of certain civil rights.
If you're facing charges related to leaving the scene of an accident, it's crucial to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights and minimize the legal consequences. The right team can help you navigate the legal process and defend your case.
Get the Legal Support You Need from Experienced Hit and Run Attorneys at the Law Offices of Brandon White
If you left the scene of a hit-and-run accident, it's crucial to get the legal support you need from experienced hit-and-run attorneys. The Law Offices of Brandon White can help reduce your penalties and keep you out of jail. Our experienced team has assisted clients in various cities across the valley, including Gilbert, Phoenix, Chandler, Tempe, Tucson, and Scottsdale. Contact us today for superior legal assistance from our criminal defense attorneys.
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