You're in an auto accident. You're afraid of the consequences. You're afraid of the costs. You're nervous. You start to freak out. No one is around but the car, person, or thing you struck. In a moment of poor decision-making, you leave the scene of the accident.
But leaving the scene of an accident is not only irresponsible, but it's also a crime in Arizona, known as either (1) a hit-and-run; or (2) failure to stop. An arrest for leaving the scene of an accident is serious and carries with it just as serious consequences.
It is well known and understood by many drivers that being in an auto collision is stressful and takes its financial and emotional toll on a person, especially if property damage and/or personal injuries are serious. Your first instinct might be to run and leave the scene of the accident regardless if you caused it or not, but it is very important to stop and remain at the scene in order to fulfill your statutory duties. To not do so will result in bigger, life-changing problems for you.
Duties: Motorists Involved in Accidents in Arizona
Motorists on any road in any state throughout the U.S. owe a general duty of care to each other to respect the rules of the road and drive defensively. In Arizona, if in an auto accident that involves property damage or personal injuries, there are additional obligations that motorists owe each other. According to Arizona statute ARS § 28-663, if driving in Arizona and in an auto accident, regardless if a resident or not, if the vehicle is registered or not, and if liable for the accident or not, motorists owe the other party(s) the duty to stop; the duty to share specific information; and the duty to render aid, if needed.
1. Duty to stop. You must stop if you were involved in an accident and there was property damage or injuries to other persons. Striking a stray cat, though unfortunate, is not applicable under this statute.
2. Duty to share specific information. The specific statutory information required to be shared is:
- Driver's name;
- Driver's address; and
- Vehicle's registration number.
Motorists also must, upon request, share driver's license number and exchange auto insurance information; it is not statutorily required except when requested by the other party.
3. Duty to render aid. If a person is injured in the auto accident, an Arizona driver must render reasonable medical assistance to the injured person if (1) the injured party requests it or (2) it is obvious medical attention is needed. "Reasonable medical assistance" includes making arrangements for the injured person to be carried to a facility for medical or surgical treatment if (1) the injured party requests it; or (2) it is obvious treatment is needed.
Offenses: Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Arizona
Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 28, includes sections that outline the offenses involved in leaving the scene of an accident in Arizona. There are three primary sections that pertain specifically to leaving the scene of an accident.
ARS § 28-661. Any driver involved in an accident that results in injury or death to another person must either (1) immediately stop at the accident scene, or (2) return as soon as possible to the scene of the accident. The driver must fulfill the duties prescribed by ARS § 28-663 without causing traffic obstruction. Failure to do so is a felony, ranging from class 2, 3, or 5, depending on the specific circumstances.
ARS § 28-662. Any driver involved in an accident that results in damage only to a vehicle, whether the vehicle was moving or stationary, must either (1) immediately stop at the accident scene; or (2) return as soon as possible to the scene of the accident. The driver must fulfill the duties prescribed by ARS § 28-663 without causing traffic obstruction. Failure to comply with any or all of these requirements is a class 2 misdemeanor.
ARS § 28-663. Any driver involved in an accident that results in property damage and/or personal injuries or death must stop at the scene of the accident and share information required by statute and render assistance if it's needed. Failure to comply with statutory duties will result in (1) a class 3 misdemeanor for failing to share information; and/or (2) a class 6 felony for failing to render assistance.
Penalties: Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Arizona
The penalties that a driver will face for violating any of the above-mentioned statutes depends on the circumstances of the auto accident. Below are the potential penalties for different situations that may arise from a hit-and-run accident.
- Failure to comply with the duty to share information is a class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
- Failure to stop and leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage to another vehicle is a class 2 misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of four months in jail and a $750 fine.
The combination of failing to stop, failing to render assistance, and leaving the scene of an accident involving physical injuries or death are felonies. Classification of felonies are in accordance with the degree of injuries involved:
- When the injuries sustained were not serious and no death occurred, it is a class 5 felony punishable by a three-year driver's license revocation, nine months to two years in jail, and a $750 fine.
- When the injuries sustained were serious or death occurred, it is a class 3 felony that can be upgraded to a class 2 felony if the driver who failed to stop caused the accident. Serious injury is defined in ARS § 13-305 as a physical injury that causes reasonable risk of death, serious and permanent disfigurement, loss or protracted impairment of an organ or limb function, or serious impairment of health. Class 3 felony is punishable by two and a half to seven years in jail and a $750 fine. Class 2 felony is punishable by four to ten years in prison and a $750 fine. In both cases, the driver's license will be revoked for: (1) five years if left the scene when serious injuries were involved; and (2) ten years if left the scene when death occurred.
In addition to the statutory penalties for the specific offense, felonies in Arizona can also be accompanied by sanctions. A sample of sanctions that could apply under these circumstances includes (1) ineligibility for certain professional opportunities or government assistance; and/or (2) loss of certain civil rights.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Immediately
As you can see, the consequences of leaving the scene of an accident in Arizona are serious. You do not want to act on your impulse to flee the scene because you are scared of what might happen. If, however, you did act on your impulse, you need a criminal defense attorney who is experienced, resourceful, and ready to take on your case and either get the charges dismissed or reduced. Contact the Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp today at 866-490-HAMP or 928-753-6868 to speak with a qualified attorney about the specific nature of your case.