As we all know, life can be very stressful. Unsurprisingly, stress can cause us to make bad decisions, the results of which, ironically, create even more stress.
When it comes to car accidents, there’s the initial shock of “Oh my gosh, what just happened?” followed by an adrenaline rush as you try to figure out if anyone was injured and how much damage occurred.
It’s during this very brief time period when the stress of the crash can cause fear, perhaps even panic and, before you know it, you’ve sped away from the scene of the accident.
Stop. Take a deep breath.
If you or someone you know has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident in NJ, things don’t have to be as bad as you’re afraid they might be.
Consider retaining an attorney experienced in handling such cases. There are many reasons for doing so. And, if you haven’t been charged because you have managed to avoid arrest, you should definitely seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible unless you are willing to chance even worse penalties for leaving the scene of an accident in New Jersey.
Make no mistake, there are penalties, significant penalties, for leaving the scene of an accident in NJ. The severity of the punishment you receive ultimately depends on whether you have any prior offenses for this crime and whether you turned yourself in compared with being apprehended after a police investigation and/or chase.
If a chase was involved or you have chosen to remain anonymous in hopes that the whole thing would just go away, you may soon discover that a charge of the leaving the scene of an accident in NJ isn’t your biggest problem.
What should you do in the event of an accident?
Leaving the scene of an accident (more commonly referred to as a “hit and run”) is a serious offense, one made even more serious if a significant personal injury is involved. New Jersey state law requires that a driver involved in a motor vehicle accident (MVA):
- Immediately (or when able to do so without obstructing traffic) stops the vehicle
- Provides name and address to other driver(s) involved
- Shows the other driver(s) involved his or her driver’s license and vehicle registration
- If someone has been injured in the accident and the need for medical treatment appears necessary or is requested by the injured person, provide “reasonable assistance,” including transporting the injured person to a doctor or healthcare facility
- If the other car was unattended, attempt to locate the driver or owner
- If unable to locate that individual, leave a written notice that includes your contact information with the vehicle or notify local police.
- If the accident resulted in injury, death or more than $500 worth of property damage, an official police report must be reported. Be aware that failure to report an accident results in a fine while the outcome of abandoning the scene is more extreme.
Here’s what happens if you break the rules…
If you fail to comply with one or more of these requirements, the case will likely be handled at a municipal court and the following penalties await:
First offense for leaving the scene of an accident in NJ which involved one or more other driver(s):
- A mandatory license suspension of up to 6 months and
- A fine ranging from $200 to $400 and/or
- A jail sentence of up to 30 days.
- If the accident resulted in injury or death to another, a prison term of up to 180 days is possible.
Any incident of leaving the scene of an accident in NJ that also involves driving while intoxicated will result in charges of aggravated assault or death by auto (commonly referred to as vehicular homicide), a conviction of which cannot be subsequently expunged.
In addition to the other penalties, two points are added to your license if no injury occurred. If, however, someone was injured as a result of the accident, eight points will be assessed against your license.
Be aware that if you accumulate 12 points against your driving record within any two-year period your license is subject to suspension.
A second offense for leaving the scene of an accident in NJ:
- Drivers license suspension of one year from the date of conviction and
- A fine of no less than $400 but no more than $600 and/or
- Imprisonment for between 30 and 90 days.
First offense of leaving the scene of an accident in NJ in which an unintended vehicle or property was damaged:
- Six months suspension of the New Jersey driver’s license, and
- A fine of not less than $200 but not more than $400, and/or
- Imprisonment of 30 days or less.
- A driver’s license suspension of one year from the date of conviction and
- A fine from $400 to $600 and/or
- Imprisonment for anywhere from 30 to 90 days.
Suppression or concealment:
If the court finds that you have suppressed, “by way of concealment or obstruction,” any evidence that you violated a law related to leaving the scene of an accident in NJ or you suppressed the identity of the person who violated such a law, you will be subject to a fine ranging from $250 to $1,000.
The impact leaving the scene of an accident in NJ will have on your insurance.
In addition to court-imposed penalties, you should be aware that there are insurance-related consequences to leaving the scene of an accident in NJ as well.
Specifically, if you are insured in the state of New Jersey, your insurance carrier will charge you two “insurance eligibility points” if the accident did not result in personal injury and nine “insurance eligibility points” if it did. Either way, your auto insurance premiums will increase.
Depending on the amount of points you are charge will also determine the willingness of insurers to accept or reject you. Once you accumulate seven “insurance eligibility points”, you are no longer permitted to purchase insurance on the open market but must instead obtain costly “at-risk” coverage via the New Jersey Personal Automobile Insurance Plan (NJPAIP).
Finally, a conviction of leaving the scene of an accident in NJ will result in the assessment of a surcharge by the Motor Vehicle Commission. The amount of the surcharge will depend on how many points you have accumulated against your driving record, ranging from $100 to $1,500.
Failure to pay those surcharges can lead to a suspension by the MVC of your driving privileges and force the Commission to commence collection efforts such as wage garnishment or liens against your property.
Don’t make matters worse
Remember, however, that these factors all apply to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident in NJ without the presence of any aggravating factors. If, however, you attempted to escape after having been identified at the scene (via high-speed chase, for example) or have attempted to otherwise avoid detection and/or arrest, you will almost certainly face additional criminal charges which may result in additional (potentially much more) prison time.
Take into account additional costs such as legal fees and other possible consequences such as losing your job and disruption to your personal life and it becomes clear that leaving the scene of an accident in NJ is not something you want to do.
If you have, however, you should seek the advice of a Fontanella, Benevento, Galluccio & Smith attorney experienced in such matters as soon as possible.