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Leaving the Scene of an Accident

In New Jersey, there were 274,210 car accidents in 2019. While everyone reacts to being involved in a car accident differently, some drivers may flee the scene in a panic and not necessarily out of malicious intent.

It is against state law to leave the scene of an accident without contacting the police. Doing so is labeled a “hit and run”. Being convicted of leaving the scene of an accident will result in fines, loss of driving privileges, and potential jail sentences.

If you have been suspected of or charged with a hit-and-run accident, contact the experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Matthew V. Portella, LLC for help navigating the complex legal journey ahead.

What is required of a driver involved in a car accident?

According to New Jersey law, when a driver is involved in a car accident, they must remain at the scene and contact the appropriate authorities. This is the case even in single-vehicle accidents, for example when a driver hits something other than a vehicle such as a tree or a street sign. If the accident is obstructing traffic, drivers may pull off to the side of the road but should remain as close to the site of the initial collision as possible.

Drivers must give each other their personal information (such as name, address, and insurance company information) and notify the local police department, which may include the State Police if the municipality does not have a police department.

The New Jersey statute states that a driver suspected of leaving the scene of an accident cannot defend themself by saying they were unaware of the extent of the property damage or personal injury “as long as the operator was aware that he was involved in an accident.”

Consequences of leaving the scene of an accident

A driver who leaves the scene of an accident faces the following penalties:

  • A fine of $200-$400 or 30 days in jail, or both, if the accident resulted in property damage and the driver is a first-time offender. There is a loss of license for a period of 6 months and 2 points.
  • A fine of $400-$600 or 30-90 days in jail, or both, if the accident resulted in property damage and the driver is a subsequent offender (meaning he or she has previously been convicted of leaving the scene of an accident). There is a loss of license for a period of 1 year and 2 points.
  • A fine of $2,500-$5,000 or 180 days in jail, or both, if the accident resulted in injury or death to someone other than the person who left the scene, as well as a 1-year loss of license if the person is a first-time offender and 8 points. If the person is a subsequent offender, then they will permanently forfeit their right to operate a motor vehicle in New Jersey.
  • There is a permissive inference that the driver of any motor vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person or damage in the amount of $250 or more to any vehicle or property has knowledge that he was involved in the accident.
  • There is a permissive inference that the registered owner of the vehicle which was involved in action was the person involved in the accident.

Additionally, any person who is found to have suppressed evidence of the accident by hiding or destroying it or who attempts to conceal the identity of the driver who left the scene following a hit-and-run accident will be fined $250-$1,000.

Contact an experienced attorney

If you were involved in a hit-and-run car accident and you left the scene, contact the Law Office of Matthew V. Portella, LLC to speak with our experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The consequences of a hit-and-run conviction can have long-lasting financial and personal impacts. Call (856) 245-5913 today to schedule a free consultation.

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