Defending those Accused of Leaving the Scene
Fleeing the scene of an accident may seem like a viable option to some drivers unnerved by the potential ramifications of alerting the owner of the damaged property, including possible arrest, insurance points or civil liability. Those who chose to depart the area often feel remorse afterwards, regretting that they failed to provide identifying information behind. However, by fleeing they have already committed the crime of leaving the scene of an accident. While they may feel morally and legally obligated to later report the accident, they are now at serious risk for being charged with a crime. Therefore, speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer before either speaking with the police or turning yourself in.
Elements of the Crime
Leaving the scene of an accident is criminalized by G.L. c. 90, § 24(2)(a) (leaving the scene of property damage) and § 24(2)( a½)(1) (leaving the scene of personal injury not resulting in death).
To convict a defendant of leaving the scene of property damage, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant was driving the vehicle at the time of the incident;
- On a public way;
- When he damaged another vehicle, or property, by collision or some other way;
- The defendant was aware he damaged property; and,
- Following the accident, defendant left the scene, without providing the owner of the property with his name, address, and registration information.
To convict a defendant of leaving the scene of personal injury not resulting in death, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, in addition to the above elements, except the third, that the defendant injured another person by colliding with the person or in some other way.
To comply with G.L. c. 90 § 24(2)(a), the motorist who damaged the property must provide the injured party with adequate identifying information to allow that party to contact him. If the victim is not immediately available, the defendant must provide his information to a police officer or another person at the scene who is acting in the interest of the victim. A driver damaging the property of another is obligated to make a reasonable effort to identify the owner of any unattended property.
Of course, compliance with the statute essentially requires self-incrimination.
A conviction under G.L. c. 90, § 24(2)(a) is punishable by the following a fine of $20 to $200 or imprisonment for not less than 2 weeks nor more than 2 years, or both fine and imprisonment. A conviction under G.L. c. 90, § 24(2)( a½)(1) is punishable by a mandatory term of imprisonment of 6 months, but no more than 2 years, and/or a fine of $500 to $1,000.
Contact a Cambridge criminal defense attorney
If you or a loved one has been accused or charged with leaving the scene of an accident, call us at 617-492-0055 to schedule a free in-office consultation with an experienced Boston criminal defense attorney. We have been successfully defending those accused with leaving the scene of an accident for more than 20 years.
Commonwealth vs. P.C., Newton District Court
Leaving the Scene of an Accident: Dismissed prior to arraignment
Defendant was accused of colliding with a sign on Rt. 9 and abandoning his damaged vehicle. Attorney Mahoney persuaded the court and the District Attorney’s Office that there was insufficient evidence that the Defendant was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident and to dismiss the charge prior to arraignment.