If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and leave the scene before identifying yourself, exchanging information with other parties, and in some cases, calling for aid from first responders like police and EMS, you can be charged with “leaving the scene of an accident,” also known more commonly as “hit and run.”
Colorado laws are very clear about hit and run violations, as you can read below. If you have been charged with leaving the scene of a crash, it is vital that you contact a hit and run criminal defense attorney immediately.
The lawyers at Patterson Weaver Law, LLC have years of experience defending clients in these types of cases, and would welcome the opportunity to give you a free case evaluation to discuss your unique situation. Reach out online today to help secure the best possible legal outcome with your case.
What Is “Duty to Stop?”
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident in Colorado, including if you hit property, an unoccupied vehicle, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian, you are required by law to stay at the scene. This is known as “duty to stop,” as defined by Colorado Revised Statute (C.R.S.) § 42-4-1601.
If you fail to stop and fulfill those requirements at the crash scene, including exchanging information and calling 911 if needed, you will likely face criminal charges. You can be charged if caught fleeing the scene or if you are identified later, such as if the other party recorded your vehicle leaving on a mobile phone or wrote down your license plate number.
Hit and run accidents are on the rise nationally and cost victims, their families, and first responders every year. Injuries without medical attention can be more severe, and victims wind up spending a lot of time trying to get insurance coverage or other compensation for their injuries or property damage.
If you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident, whether you are charged on the spot or given a citation after the fact, you must appear in court to defend your actions. As you will read here, the penalties for hit and run conviction in Colorado can be quite serious, depending on the situation and if other people were hurt.
What Are My Responsibilities?
As stated above, you have a statutory duty following a car accident to stop and exchange information with all other parties involved in the accident, whether it is another driver, multiple drivers and occupants, or any pedestrian or cyclist that was hit. You need to give your full name, your driver’s license number, and your license plate number, as well as your phone number, your car insurance carrier, and your policy number (or that of the owner of the vehicle, if it does not belong to you).
If the accident is more serious and there is significant damage, or if there is an injured person who requires medical attention, it is also your duty to call 911 and report the accident. In many cases, one party may also want a police officer at the scene to determine who is at fault or to deal with another driver who may be operating under the influence. Law enforcement officers can also help to defuse situations where emotions are running high.
You may offer aid at the scene of a car accident to any injured person to the degree you are able and feel safe to do so. Calling 911 for help and offering medical treatment is known as providing reasonable assistance. You must remain at the scene until first responders arrive, deal with the accident, and allow you to leave.
You also have a duty to stop if you hit an unoccupied vehicle, such as a car parked on the street or in a parking lot. You should make a reasonable effort to find the owner. If no owner can be located, you should at minimum leave a note under the windshield wiper with your full contact information. If there is any serious damage to the vehicle, you should remain at the scene and call the police to file a report. When in doubt, it’s best to stay put and wait for police assistance, as you can be charged with hit and run even with a parked vehicle.
What Are the Penalties for Hit and Run in Colorado?
The penalties for hit and run in Colorado are serious and vary depending on the severity of the situation, such as whether another vehicle was occupied, if there were damages to property, and if the accident results in injuries or death. Other penalties may be assessed if drugs or alcohol figured in the accident. These hit and run penalties are outlined in the Colorado Criminal Code under (CRS) § 42-4-1601 and (CRS) § 42-4-1603.
Unoccupied Vehicle or Unattended Vehicle
Failure to report an accident involving an unoccupied vehicle or to notify the owner is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense, carrying a penalty of:
- 10 to 90 days in jail and/or
- Fine of $150 to $300
A hit and run accident with property damage is also a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense, which can result in:
- 10 to 90 days in jail and/or
- Fine of $150 to $300
Leaving the scene of an accident in Colorado in which there is a non-serious injury is a class 1 traffic misdemeanor and has the following penalties:
- 10 days to one year in jail and/or
- Fine of $300 to $1,000
Serious Bodily Injury
A hit and run resulting in serious bodily injury is a class 4 felony in Colorado. Serious bodily injury is defined by law as injury that has a substantial risk of permanent disfigurement, substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third degree, or substantial risk of death. This can occur at the time of the accident or at a later time and carries penalties of:
- 2 to 6 years in prison and/or
- Fine of $2,000 to $500,000
Death of Any Person
A hit and run that results in a death is a class 3 felony. This may be punished by:
- 4 to 12 years prison sentence and/or
- Fine of $3,000 to $750,000
- Other Consequences
The Colorado DMV will add 12 points to your driving record and revoke your license if you are convicted of leaving the scene of an accident. You may also need to pay medical bills, vehicle repairs, and other losses for the victim or property owner as restitution.
The Importance of a Winning Defense
Because the penalties in Colorado are so stringent for hit and run crimes, and because each case is unique, it’s important to have a winning defense team that knows common defenses to these types of charges and can help you choose which defense strategy will help procure the best possible outcome in your court case.
There are so many variables to every case involving leaving the scene of an accident. Sometimes adrenaline or poor judgment at the time causes people to make bad decisions in the moment, especially if the driver is young or inexperienced. In some instances, you may not have even known you hit someone or something. We understand that your case may involve circumstances you want to make clear to the court, and as a former prosecutor, Patterson Weaver can advise you on how to proceed in that regard.
Contact an Experienced Colorado Springs Hit and Run Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has been charged as a defendant with a hit and run crime in the Colorado Springs area, contact Patterson Weaver Law, LLC immediately. Our highly experienced legal team is ready to help you, and we offer a free consultation.
Don’t wait until your trial date is upon you to seek legal assistance. Call at 719-264-9858 or get in touch online today.