Hit and run penalties typically include fines and potential jail time. If there are injuries involved, the charges may be more significant. In Arizona, you can be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor for a hit and run. The circumstances of each case greatly influence what you may be charged with. However, hit and run charges tend to be more significant when the accident involves significant property damage or the death of a person.
Understanding the Duties of the Driver
All drivers in the state of Arizona are required to take steps to find the owner of any vehicle they damage. If an unattended parked vehicle is involved in the incident, the driver must immediately stop and find the owner by waiting in the parking lot or, if in a driveway, approaching the address. If the event happens during a moving violation, such as on a roadway, the driver must pull over, contact authorities and file a police report. In some cases, it is as simple as communicating your personal information with the other driver, exchanging insurance information, and filing a police report to document the incident.
If you fail to stop or the other driver fails to stop after hitting you, the hit and run penalty can escalate quickly depending on the circumstances of the incident.
A Misdemeanor Hit and Run
Arizona law – ARS 28-662 – governs incidents in which a person leaves the scene of an accident. Specifically, this applies in situations where there is only vehicle damage. This means no injuries are present. In this situation, individuals are required to find the owner to provide information about the incident. Drivers must exchange information. Individuals who violate this are considered guilty of a hit and run. In this case, the violation is considered a Class 2 Misdemeanor.
Non-Vehicle Property Damage
Another penalty occurs when you leave the scene of an accident in which there is property damage. For example, if you back into a mailbox, you need to report the incident to the property owner. In this case, if a driver does not do so and leaves the scene of an accident, he or she can be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor.
In these examples, the criminal charges are related to misdemeanors. As a result, the maximum penalties in these cases are:
- For a Class 2 Misdemeanor under Arizona law, the maximum punishment is 4 months in jail, 2 months of probation and fines and surcharges up to $1,372.50.
- For a Class 3 Misdemeanor under Arizona law, the maximum punishment includes up to 30 days in jail, one year of probation and fines and surcharges up to $915.00.
In addition to this, all hit and run cases may result in the loss of your driver’s license. License suspensions of one year are common. Additionally, a judge can order you to be screened regularly for drug and alcohol use as well as require you to attend counseling sessions and complete community service.
Felony Hit and Run
A felony hit and run is punishable by higher fines and potential jail time. This falls under ARS 28-661. Under this law, individuals are required to remain at the scene of the crime or return as soon as possible. There must be an identification exchange including the vehicle registration number and driver’s license information. In addition, the driver must render reasonable assistance to any other individual involved in the car accident that suffered a personal injury.
When a driver leaves the scene of the accident and there is a serious injury or death, he or she can be charged with a Class 2 Felony. In this case, he or she caused the accident. If the driver fled the scene but did not cause the accident, it is typically considered a Class 3 Felony under Arizona state law.
What determines serious injury?
A vehicle accident resulting in injury can result in either a Class 2 or a Class 3 felony, based on the nature of the injuries. The law states that physical injury is considered serious if:
- There is reasonable risk of death associated with the injury
- There is serious impairment of health
- There is serious disfigurement
- There is permanent disfigurement
- There is loss of an organ or limb function
- There is protracted impairment of an organ or the function of a limb
Individuals in a hit and run accident like this are generally going to face significant criminal charges.
Penalties for felonies are significantly higher. Here are a few examples:
- A Class 2 Felony under Arizona law may result in probation and as much as 12.5 years in prison. If the driver has a previous felony on their record, they may serve time in prison for up to 35 years. The loss of their driver’s license for 10 years is also an option.
- For a Class 3 Felony under Arizona law, punishment may include probation and up to 8.75 years in prison. If the driver has previously been charged with a felony, this can increase prison time to 25 years. A loss of their driver’s license for up to 5 years is possible as well.
What Should You Do If You Are Facing a Hit and Run Charge?
Every situation is different. However, it is essential to have a criminal defense in place that properly protects your future and ensures your rights are always protected. A hit and run criminal defense will use information from the incident, such as the reason you left the scene of the accident, as well as information pertaining to your health and condition at the time of the incident. If you left the scene of an accident and you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, this may have played a role in your ability to make proper decisions.
Individuals facing hit and run charges should seek out an experienced attorney to assist them with this type of criminal charge. It is the best possible way to minimize hit and run punishments.
Call Petersen Johnson, experienced personal injury attorneys, for additional information and solutions. We offer a free consultation. Call us at 602-285-6100.