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January 13, 2010

Michigan Traffic Offenses - Leaving the Scene of an Accident (Personal Injury)

In the previous Blog entry, we discussed the Misdemeanor Offense of Leaving the Scene of a Property Damage Accident (PD). This article will discuss the similar, but more serious Offense of Leaving the Scene of a Personal Injury Accident (PI).

Leaving the Scene of a Personal Injury Accident is typically spoken of as Leaving he Scene of a PI Accident. Like the related charge involving a Property Damage Accident, this Offense and its penalties are set forth in the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code. Leaving the Scene of a PI Accident carries a much stiffer potential penalty, however, of up to 1 year in the County Jail.

car-accident.jpgAgain it would seem obvious why this is a Crime. There is a strong public interest in making sure anyone involved in an accident sticks around long enough to exchange information with anyone else involved and summon the Police, if necessary. The stakes are much higher if there is an injury, or even a potential injury. Doesn't everybody who ever gets a Driver's License learn that the first thing one should ask, after a collision, is if everyone is all right?

Imagine the potential consequences if a Driver leaves the scene of an accident after another person has been injured, and is unable to call for help. Given the stakes, making sure one person renders aid or contacts help for another who has been injured is, and ought to be, a matter of universal public policy.

In the real world, this charge comes up when someone collides with another vehicle, or pedestrian, and then panics and takes off. I think it's fair to say that most of the time this happens, the person who takes off truly believes that the other party is okay. In other words, most of the time, when one person knows they have really banged up another, they'll stick around and do the right thing.

As with PD accidents, there are two groups of people who Leave the Scene of a Personal Injury Accident:

1. Those who had been drinking and left the scene to avoid getting arrested for a DUI, and

2. Everybody else.

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January 11, 2010

Michigan Traffic Offenses - Leaving the Scene of an Accident (Property Damage)

One kind of charge that comes up somewhat regularly in my Practice as a Criminal Defense Lawyer involves the Misdemeanor charge of Leaving the Scene of a Accident. Actually, there are two different kinds of Leaving the Scene charges: The one we'll discuss in this first article, is Leaving the Scene or a Property Damage Accident. In the next installment of this Blog, we'll examine the other, similar (but more serious) charge of Leaving the Scene of a Personal Injury Accident.

Leaving the Scene of a Property Damage Accident is often referred to as Leaving the Scene of a PD Accident, and is a violation of what's known as Michigan's Motor Vehicle Code. The Motor Vehicle Code is the collection of all Michigan Traffic Laws. A violation of any provision of the Motor Vehicle Code is considered a Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in Jail, unless a different penalty is specified as part of a particular provision. Curiously, and somewhat redundantly, the specific provision of the Law concerning Leaving the Scene of a PD Accident includes a penalty of up to 90 days in jail for its violation.

Wreck.jpgThe purpose of these Laws is relatively clear; to make sure people don't take off after an accident. Someone who's property has been damaged as the result of an accident, whether it's a car parked somewhere, or a mailbox, or whatever else, shouldn't be left "holding the bag" for those damages if the other driver was able to take off and get away undetected. In the vast majority of collisions (where a person was not driving while drunk, or high on drugs, or recklessly) the worst thing an at-fault driver faces is a Traffic Ticket for a Civil Infraction. In other words, the penalty for leaving is much worse than any possible penalty for whatever happened to cause the collision. The law applies equally to any driver involved in an accident, meaning that even a person who was clearly not at fault can't just leave the scene.

In the real world, there are 2 kinds of people facing this offense:

1. Those who had been drinking and left the scene to avoid getting arrested for a DUI, and

2. Everybody else.

A fairly typical real-life example involves someone hitting a parked car as the drive down a street. If the driver is sober, then, at worst, they might get a Traffic Ticket for their actions. If the driver has been drinking, however, they know that they're facing a DUI arrest, further complicated by the accident, if they wait around for the Police to show up. While even the most law-abiding citizen can become panic-stricken and make a poor decision and drive off, it's far more likely to happen when a person knows contact with the Police will certainly lead to a Drunk Driving arrest, for starters.

Continue reading "Michigan Traffic Offenses - Leaving the Scene of an Accident (Property Damage)" »

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