A hit and run accident involves a situation where a driver hits another vehicle, an object, or even a person, and then leaves the scene. In a hit and run, the driver does not contact law enforcement and does not give aid to anyone who is injured.
Leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offense in Kentucky. Depending on the facts of the accident — whether it involved simply property damage, physical injury or death — it may be charged as a misdemeanor or even a felony crime.
As a Lexington criminal defense attorney can explain, if you leave the scene of an accident that results in any type of injury or loss, you may be charged with a crime under Kentucky law. Read on to learn more about your duty under Kentucky law if you are involved in a car crash — and the potential consequences of failing to fulfill that duty.
Kentucky Law on a Driver’s Duty After an Accident
In Kentucky, if you are in a car accident, you are required to “immediately stop and ascertain the extent of the injury or damage and render reasonable assistance.” You must also “give the occupant of the vehicle, or person struck, if requested, the registration number of the vehicle, if any, and also the names and addresses of the owner, occupants, and operator.”
This same law requires anyone who hits an unattended vehicle or other property (such as a mailbox) to notify the owner. This could be done by leaving a note, provided that the note contains your name, address and vehicle registration number. You must also report the accident to local police.
Criminal Charges for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
If you leave the scene of an accident without exchanging information, rendering aid, or notifying law enforcement as required under Kentucky law, then you may face criminal charges. The exact charges you will face depends on the nature of the damage suffered.
If you leave the scene of an accident that caused property damage, then you may be charged with a Kentucky hit and run, a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty for this offense is up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $500. This offense is charged if a person leaves after being in an accident that causes damage to another vehicle or property, included an unattended vehicle.
More serious accidents may result in harsher penalties. This includes a felony hit and run for leaving the scene of a crash where you knew or should have known that another person died or was seriously injured. This crime is a Class D felony and is punishable by between one and five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
In addition to criminal charges, leaving the scene of an accident can lead to other penalties. Your driver’s license may be suspended or revoked for even a misdemeanor hit and run offense. You may also be sued civilly for any damage that you cause as a result of the accident.
Defenses to a Hit and Run Charge
If you have been charged with a hit and run offense, there are several potential legal and factual defenses that may be raised. In some cases, the assistance of a skilled lawyer may result in no charges being filed against you.
The specific defense that may be used will depend on the facts of each case. For example, if you were driving late at night and lightly bumped into another vehicle as you backed out of a parking space, you may not have known that you even hit another car. In that situation, it could be argued that leaving the scene was reasonable because you did not even know that the other vehicle suffered any damage.
Alternatively, you may have been in an emergency situation that required you to leave the scene, such as needing to get to the hospital with a sick child in your vehicle. You may have been aware that you hit your neighbor’s retaining wall as you left your home quickly, but the urgent nature of the circumstances prevented you from stopping to leave a note. This defense may not lead to a dismissal of a misdemeanor hit and run charge, but it may result in a reduction of the sentence.
In some cases, the accident may leave the driver unable to make reasonable decisions. Consider a situation where you rear-end another vehicle, and hit your head off of the steering wheel. If you suffered a mild concussion or other brain injury, then your decision to drive away from the accident could be attributed to your health condition at that moment.
These are just some examples of defenses that may be raised in cases involving Kentucky misdemeanor hit and run charges. Depending on the facts of the case, your attorney may be able to present other factual or legal arguments to have the charges against you reduced.
How a Lexington Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
Every driver in Kentucky has an obligation to perform certain tasks if they are in a car accident, such as exchanging information, rendering aid, or leaving a note. In some situations, drivers involved in crashes panic, and may leave the scene. While this impulse may be understandable, it can result in criminal charges.
Baldani Law Group is dedicated to defending clients in Lexington and the surrounding areas against a range of criminal offenses, including those related to misdemeanor hit and run charges. We offer top-notch criminal defense combined with decades of combined experience. With a main office in Lexington, our team of legal professionals serve clients throughout the state.
If you have been charged with a Kentucky hit and run offense, we are here to help. We know Kentucky law, and how the process works — and we’ll put our skill and experience to work for you. Call our firm today at (859) 259-0727 or reach out online to schedule a consultation with a Lexington criminal defense attorney