Hit and Run in Arizona (Leaving the Scene of an Accident)
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Whether in the Phoenix area, or anywhere in Arizona, per A.R.S. § 28-661, § 28-662, § 28-663, § 28-664, and § 28-665, “Leaving the Scene of an Accident” or “Hit and Run” occurs when a person is involved in an accident (whether it is their fault or not) and they fail to immediately stop the vehicle at the scene, or as close to the accident scene as possible, and exchange information and assistance.
If the accident involved an unattended vehicle or a fixture on the highway, then the person must stop their vehicle and either locate and notify the owner or operator of the unattended vehicle, or in a conspicuous place leave written notice giving their name and address of the owner of the vehicle which was involved in the collision.
Watch this short video where David explains Hit and Run / Leaving the Scene in Arizona:
Punishment for Hit and Run / Leaving the Scene
Being charged with hit and run can carry harsh penalties and even prison time! Depending on the details of the incident, the punishments can range from the following.
If the accident involved serious physical injury or death, and the defendant caused the accident, then this can be charged as a class two (2) felony. You can be sentenced to the following punishments:
- Probation with zero (0) days in jail up to one (1) year in jail, or prison range of three (3) years to 12 and one half (12.5) years of incarceration.
- If the person has one (1) allegeable historical prior conviction, then the “prison only” range is four and one half (4.5) years to twenty-three (23) years of incarceration.
- If the person has two (2) allegeable historical prior convictions, then the “prison only” range is ten and one half (10.5) years to thirty-five (35) years of incarceration.
- Your license revoked for five (5) years
If the person did not cause the accident, but did leave the scene of the accident and serious physical injury or death was involved, then this can be charged as a class three (3) felony. You can be sentenced to the following punishment:
- Probation with zero (0) days in jail up to one (1) year in jail; or prison of two (2) to eight and three quarters (8.75) years of incarceration.
- If the person has one (1) allegeable historical prior conviction, then the “prison only” range is three and one quarter (3.25) to sixteen and one quarter (16.25) years of incarceration.
- If the person has two (2) allegeable historical prior convictions, then the “prison only” range is seven and one half (7.5) years to twenty-five (25) years of incarceration.
- Your license revoked for five (5) years
For all other Hit and Run accidents that did not cause serious physical injury or death, these can be charged as a class five (5) felony and carry the following punishments:
- A class five (5) felony carries a range of punishment of probation and up to one (1) year in jail, or a prison term of six (6) months to two and one half (2.5) years.
- In addition, a fine of up to $500.00 plus an 84% surcharge can be imposed.
- Your license will be revoked for up to three (3) years.
BEWARE: Any sentence imposed must run consecutively to any other sentence imposed for any other convictions where other charges are related to the accident. This means that if your receive a 5 year sentence for the Hit and Run, and a 1 year sentence for an Aggravated DUI, you will be required to serve 6 years in prison.
If the accident only caused damage to another vehicle, this is charged as a class two (2) misdemeanor and carries a punishment of a term of probation with up to six (6) months in jail. Additionally, your license may be suspended for one year.
Defenses for Hit and Run / Leaving the Scene
In regards to Misdemeanor Hit and Run, the most common defense that we see involves a mistake of fact, in that the defendant did not realize that they actually struck another vehicle (i.e., when they were backing out of a parking space), or they believed that there was no real damage and they assumed they were being “waved by” in order to keep driving by the other vehicle. This sometimes occurs when there is a slight rear-end tap and the other vehicle drives on for a short ways and then makes a right-hand turn. The person who was behind the alleged victim’s vehicle may believe “no harm no foul” and may keep driving. In regards to the more serious felony crime of striking or injuring another driver or pedestrian in an accident and leaving the scene, many times people do not realize that they actually struck a person. They may believe that they struck an animal, or that somebody “threw something” at their vehicle.
Additionally, a common defense in all hit and run cases is that although the defendant was aware of the accident, he did not stop because it was late at night in a bad area of town and was worried that he was being “set up” for some type of robbery. People may also leave the scene because they fear that the situation will develop into a road rage and escalate into violence. A critical factor in asserting this defense will be demonstrating that the defendant acted as “reasonable person” would have acted under the same circumstances. It makes quite a bit of difference (when deciding whether you should stop your car) if you think somebody threw something at your car in a nice area of North Scottsdale, verses a bad area of Downtown Phoenix. It is important to conduct a proper accident reconstruction and thoroughly interview all vital witnesses in the case.
Other Defense Tactics Commonly Used
There are many effective defenses that are common to all criminal defense cases in addition to the ones stated above. Because we are an aggressive firm that fights convictions from every angle, we will assert a variety of defenses and challenges to constitutional violations, on your behalf. One of the most common defenses we encounter is a “Miranda rights violation”. In Arizona, the standard of whether any incriminating statement (i.e., a statement which tends to admit guilt) is admissible into evidence is based upon a “voluntariness” standard. If we can demonstrate that the police coerced you (i.e., intimidated or tricked you) into making a confession or inculpatory statement, or that they did not properly read you your Miranda Rights, then we can suppress those statements and any evidence gathered as a direct result of those statements. In addition, “denial of right to Counsel” is another common defense which is often raised.
This occurs when a suspect is in custody and requests to speak to their attorney, but is denied and questioning continues. It is important to hire a skilled Hit and Run Accident Lawyer to defend you. One who has knowledge of all possible defenses involved in a Hit and Run or Leaving the Scene of an Accident case.