Fairfax Traffic Lawyer Explains:
Virginia Hit and Run Law
VA Code 46.2-894
The reasoning behind Virginia Code 46.2-894, also known as the “Virginia hit and run law,” is to protect the interests of innocent motorists, but also to ensure motorists involved in accidents do not escape liability – civil and/or criminal. The law itself is a criminal statute, and depending upon circumstances, may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
It is important to understand — especially if researching this charge or another traffic offense for you or a loved one — the civil aspect. Even if the charge is dropped, an injured driver could file a subsequent lawsuit. The way in which the traffic/criminal case plays out could influence a subsequent civil action. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to hire an experienced local Fairfax traffic attorney as soon as realistically possible following a traffic or criminal charge, and especially so in the event of an accident (whether or not injuries are apparent).
The information on this page is not legal advice, and any person currently facing a criminal charge in Virginia should contact a local criminal lawyer – send our Fairfax criminal lawyer and traffic attorney a message.
If an individual is charged with this offense, it may not be the only criminal charge he/she faces. For example, one defendant could face multiple charges such as reckless driving, hit and run, and aggressive driving, among others. Our Fairfax reckless driving lawyer offers free consultations and can help the accused understand the process, outlook, and steps required to reach the end of this process.
Virginia Code 46.2-894 is a law that actually imposes duties on drivers to do specific things in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the event of an accident in which property is damaged and/or a person is injured.
What are the Duties?
1. Driver must immediately stop – the driver must stop as close as possible to the scene of the accident.
But: the driver must not obstruct traffic and if the vehicle is not operable, another Virginia law (Virginia Code 46.2-888) requires the driver turn on emergency flashing lights if the vehicle is equipped with such. The law allows the driver to move the vehicle if it is movable to prevent obstructing the flow of traffic.
2. Driver must provide information:
- Driver’s license number
- Vehicle registration number
3. Driver must provide information to the State Police or local law enforcement
4. Driver must render reasonable assistance to any person with injuries:
This includes taking the person to receive medical treatment, if it is apparent that treatment is necessary or the person requests such treatment.
In some accidents, injuries are so serious that compliance with the law may not be possible. In such circumstances, the law requires the driver act “as soon as reasonably possible” make a required report to State Police or local law enforcement, as well as make “reasonable effort” to locate the party involved, or the operator or other person in that vehicle, or the custodian of the damaged property, and report the same information above (#2).
Virginia Hit and Run Penalties:
If the accident involved injury or death of any person (e.g., driver, pedestrian, passerby, etc.), or if more than $1000 in damages occurred to property, then this is treated as a Class 5 felony. A Class 5 felony is punishable as stated on our Virginia felony penalties.
“(e) For Class 5 felonies, a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than 10 years, or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both” – read statute
Question: does a driver have to report the information required (#2 above) to an injured driver involved in the accident and the police, or is it enough to provide the information to only the other party? One case suggests the following: The law is to be read in the conjunctive, not disjunctive, and requires a report to police and the injured party. Banks v. Commonwealth, 217 Va. 527, 230 S.E.2d 256 (1976).
What must the Commonwealth (prosecution) prove to convict someone charged with Violating Virginia’s Hit and Run Law?
The Commonwealth must establish that:
- the defendant was in fact the driver (of a vehicle he or she knew was involved in an accident);
- damage or injuries occurred;
- the driver did know or should have known another party was injured;
- the defendant did not stop as close as possible and immediately, or
- did not report the required information).
Do I need a lawyer if charged with hit and run in Virginia?
It is a good idea to hire an attorney when charged with any crime. However, many times this particular offense is not charged as a misdemeanor, but rather, a felony. Not only will a felony limit life opportunities, but in the event of an accident in which one is injured, one may be liable for massive amounts of damages in civil court. Car accident related crimes are important to defend at the General District Court level, and local Fairfax criminal lawyer and/or a Fairfax traffic attorney should be consulted in the event of a charge.
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