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Leaving the Scene After a Brooklyn Car Accident

March 21, 2024

Leaving the Scene After a Brooklyn Car Accident: What to Know

Being involved in a car accident can be a scary and stressful experience. Emotions may be running high, and it can be tempting to leave the scene quickly in hopes of putting the incident behind you. However, leaving the scene of an accident without exchanging information or reporting the incident can have serious legal consequences in Brooklyn and throughout New York.

Understanding New York’s Laws on Leaving the Scene

Under New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law §600, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident without stopping and reporting it in several situations:

  • If there was any type of injury, no matter how minor
  • If there was more than $1000 in property damage
  • If any vehicle involved was not drivable and had to be towed from the scene

Violating this law and leaving the scene of one of these types of accidents is considered a misdemeanor offense. Potential penalties include fines of up to $500, up to 180 days in jail, and a license suspension for at least 6 months.

If the accident resulted in serious physical injury or death, leaving the scene escalates to a class E felony with fines up to $5,000 and up to 4 years in prison.

Steps to Take If You Are Involved in an Accident

To avoid breaking the law and facing criminal charges, you must stop immediately at the scene of any accident where there are injuries or major damage. You should then:

  • Check on the condition of any injured people and call 911 if medical attention is needed
  • Exchange driver’s license, insurance, vehicle registration, and contact details with the other driver(s)
  • Take photos of damage to all vehicles and the accident scene
  • File an accident report form MV-104 with the DMV within 10 days
  • Contact your insurance company to file a claim within 24 hours

Remaining at the scene and following these steps is essential. Even if you think you were not at fault or the accident seems minor, failing to stop and report it is against the law.

Why It’s Important Not to Leave the Scene

There are a few key reasons it is vital not to leave the scene of an accident before exchanging information and reporting it:

  • It prevents hit-and-run crimes: By getting the other driver’s details, you ensure they do not commit a criminal hit-and-run by fleeing the scene without reporting the accident.
  • It allows proper liability assessment: Insurance companies need to collect evidence and speak to all parties involved to correctly determine fault and liability. Leaving the scene makes this investigation more difficult.
  • It gets medical help for the injured: Seeking immediate medical attention for anyone hurt in the crash could save lives and minimize long-term injuries.
  • It avoids criminal charges: As outlined above, leaving the scene without reporting any significant accident is against NY law and comes with stiff penalties.

Though it may be tempting to drive away, doing so causes much more trouble in the long run. Remaining at the scene cooperatively is always the correct decision.

What to Do If You Have Left the Scene of an Accident

If you panic after an accident and make the mistake of fleeing the scene, all hope is not lost. Here are some steps you should take:

  • Consult a criminal defense attorney immediately: An experienced lawyer can advise you on constructing an appropriate defense and minimizing penalties. Attorney-client confidentiality means you can be honest with them about exactly what happened.
  • Consider turning yourself in: For minor accidents with only property damage, going to the police station to self-report what happened shows willingness to take responsibility. This can positively influence your charges and sentencing.
  • Start gathering evidence: Compile any documentation related to the accident, like photographs of vehicle damage or medical reports of any injuries sustained. This evidence could help prove mitigating circumstances that led you to panic and leave the scene.
  • Make necessary insurance claims: Being absent from the scene makes liability assessment harder. Early insurance claims help reconstruct events and show you are not trying to evade responsibility by fleeing.

While self-reporting to police or compiling evidence without an attorney’s guidance is risky, waiting too long can make the situation much worse. Speaking to a lawyer should be the first priority.

Finding the Right Lawyer for Your Hit-and-Run Case

If you have unfortunately received charges for leaving the scene of an accident, finding an experienced criminal defense attorney in Brooklyn should be your top focus. Here are some tips:

  • Choose a local lawyer: An attorney familiar with NY traffic laws and the Brooklyn court system will best represent your interests.
  • Find someone experienced with hit-and-runs: An attorney who regularly deals with leaving the scene charges will know all the most effective defense strategies.
  • Meet for an initial consultation: Schedule a first meeting to honestly discuss your case. This lets the lawyer assess your options and helps you decide if you feel comfortable working with them.
  • Compare fee structures: While most criminal attorneys work on contingency or allow payment plans, some may expect large retainers upfront. Choose someone with reasonable financial expectations.
  • Read online reviews: Checking independent review sites like Avvo and Lawyers.com helps assess an attorney’s reputation and expertise before retaining them.

Choosing the right legal representation and defense approach can make all the difference in getting charges reduced or dismissed. Do not delay finding an attorney to assist you.

Potential Defenses Against Leaving the Scene Charges

While fleeing the scene of an accident you were involved in is illegal, in some cases there may be extenuating circumstances that form the basis of a strong legal defense. Common defenses against leaving the scene charges include:

  • Lack of knowledge: If you can prove you were unaware an accident even occurred, this could show you did not knowingly flee the scene. Evidence like lack of visible vehicle damage may support such a claim.
  • Intent to report: Demonstrating you fully intended to report the accident shortly after leaving the area but were prevented by circumstances from doing so in a timely manner may excuse failing to stop immediately.
  • Medical issues: Any medical complications like shock or panic attacks suffered due to the accident that impaired judgement could potentially justify briefly leaving the scene before reporting it.
  • False accusations: Another driver falsely accusing you of involvement as retaliation or insurance fraud does happen. Evidence clearly proving you were not present could exonerate you.

While asserting one of these defenses does not guarantee a dismissal of charges, it gives your attorney angles to advocate for more lenient sentencing if convicted. An experienced lawyer thoroughly investigates which defenses are viable given the specifics of your case.

What Happens If You Are Convicted of Leaving the Scene in Brooklyn

If efforts to defend against the charges fail and you are convicted of leaving the scene in Brooklyn Criminal Court, here is the general process of penalties you will face:

  • Fines and restitution: You must pay imposed fines to the court as well as restitution money to victims to cover medical bills, property damage, and other losses.
  • License suspension: For hit-and-run convictions, the New York DMV mandates suspending your driver’s license for a minimum of 6 months.
  • Jail time: Though incarceration sentences depend on if injuries/death occurred, some time in jail up to 1 year is common for Class A misdemeanor convictions.
  • Probation: Most hit-and-run sentences involve 1-3 years of supervised probation after release, including regular meetings with a parole officer.
  • Community service: Fulfilling court-ordered volunteer work at certain non-profit organizations is a standard probation requirement for hit-and-run convictions.
  • Permanent criminal record: Like all misdemeanors in New York, hit-and-run offenses stay on your record permanently and must be disclosed to employers and on housing/loan applications.

Getting convicted for leaving the scene of an accident you caused can negatively impact your life for years to come in many ways beyond just the initial court penalties. It is critical to do everything possible to avoid such a conviction.

Conclusion: Why You Should Never Leave the Scene

Being involved in any car accident is a stressful, chaotic event. Still, leaving the scene without stopping or reporting the incident as required by law makes a bad situation exponentially worse. Breaking New York’s hit-and-run statutes, even unintentionally, subjects you to steep criminal penalties and consequences.

If you unfortunately panic and flee after an accident, immediately consult an attorney experienced with defending against leaving the scene charges in Brooklyn. With their counsel, you may be able to minimize penalties or even get charges reduced or dismissed through asserting a strong legal defense. They can advise if voluntarily self-reporting to police could positively influence your case resolution as well.

However, the only sure way to avoid hit-and-run penalties entirely is staying at the scene. Exchange contact and insurance information with other involved parties, document the incident, get medical assistance for anyone injured, and cooperate fully with law enforcement responding. While this process can be stressful too, it pales in comparison to the severe ramifications of leaving without reporting a significant accident. By following proper procedures at the scene, you avoid breaking laws, demonstrate accountability, and handle the situation in the most responsible, ethical manner possible.


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