Criminal Offense of Failure to Assist an Injured Person

 

Motorists involved in any type of motor vehicle accident where personal injury or death occurs are required to remain at the scene until police arrive. All states have statutes setting out certain procedures a motorist must follow after involvement in a collision causing death or injury. Moreover, the statutes treat the term "accident" or "collision" to include all automobile collisions, intentional as well as unintentional.

In general, a driver of any vehicle who is knowingly involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person is required to immediately stop and remain at the scene of the accident until he has provided identification and insurance information and rendered assistance to any person injured in the accident, including requesting emergency assistance. The purpose of such statutes is to prevent those involved in accidents from escaping liability and to ensure that anyone injured receives the proper medical assistance. The statute also facilitates accident investigation and preserves the public order while encouraging and advancing public safety.

Criminal liability will attach to a driver who "knowingly" leaves the scene of the accident. Therefore, criminal liability for leaving the scene of injury or death requires proof that the driver charged either knew of the resulting injury or death, or, at a minimum, reasonably should have known of the resulting injury or death from the nature of the accident and all attenuating circumstances.

A motorist's failure to abide by these "assistance" laws commits a misdemeanor. If the victim suffers a "serious" bodily injury or dies, the motorist will be charged with a felony. Penalties include a substantial fine of upwards of $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year. In addition, the state will either suspend the operating privilege of the driver for up to one year or permanently revoke the driver's license.

Copyright 2011 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.


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