Question for Attorney Carbone: Will I Go to Jail for Leaving the Scene of an Accident?
Question: While I was getting on the highway, the car in front of stopped short. I couldn’t stop in time and hit the car. We got over on the side of the road to access the damage. There was a small dent in his bumper and no damage on my car. The other driver said not to worry about it. Relieved, I got back in my car and drove away. A few weeks later, I received a summons in the mail to appear in court. I was charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Will I go to jail? How much trouble am I in?
Answer: We can’t stress this enough — never leave the scene of an accident, even if the other driver says it’s ok.
According to NJSA 39:4-129, there are certain responsibilities you must meet after a car accident:
- Stop your vehicle.
- Contact the police and wait for their arrival.
- Give your contact information to other drivers, occupants, police officers, and witnesses. This includes your vehicle registration, insurance, and driver’s license.
- Provide any assistance to anyone injured.
If you do leave the scene of an accident, what can you expect as a punishment? It all depends on the severity of the accident. For example, if you leave the scene because there’s only a scratch may not have the same level of severity as if you leave the scene where someone is injured.
If you leave the scene of an accident where someone is injured, you could face a fine of $2,500 to $5,000 and you may face a jail sentence of 180 days. You will receive points on your license. However, if the driver is the only one who was injured in the accident, the jail sentence may not be imposed.
There are times when leaving the scene of an accident can be an indictable crime. If the other driver had suffered “serious bodily injury,” as described in NJSA 2c:12-1.1, this is considered a third degree crime. This means you could be fined up to $15,000 and sentenced to five years in prison.
You could also have your license suspended. Even if no one was injured or killed, the judge may suspend your license for up to six months. If someone was injured or killed, you may lose your license for up to a year.
Since your accident was a simple misunderstanding, you may not have to face these scenarios. If this is your first offense, you may only face a fine of $200 to $400. The judge may impose a jail sentence of up to 30 days. But it may be beneficial to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to see what your legal options may be. If you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident, contact the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone now for a free consultation.