Leaving the scene of a property damage accident (sometimes written up as something like “leaving scene of PDA,” or “leave scene PDA,” and often referred to simply as “hit and run” or “PDA”) is one of the more common offenses I see in my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer. Most people don’t understand how seriously these cases are taken until they find themselves in the middle of one. The reason for this is simple: In many, (if not most) PDA cases, the driver who took off did so because he or she had been drinking and didn’t want to deal with the police and get arrested for a DUI. Of course, this isn’t true in all cases, but the assumption is nonetheless there in every case.
Not surprisingly, a lot of these charges wind up in courts with robust DUI caseloads, including Oakland County’s Rochester Hills’ 52-3 and Troy’s 52-4 district courts, along with Royal Oak’s 44th district court. In Macomb County, the Sterling Heights 41-A district court and Shelby Township’s 41-A Shelby division, along with Clinton Townships 41-B and Roseville’s 39th district court see their fair share of PDA cases, while in Wayne County, the 16th district court in Livonia, the 18th district court in Westland, and the 35th district court in Plymouth/Canton deal with as many of these charges as any other local, Detroit-area court.
As it often plays out, a person, while driving, sideswipes another vehicle, or else hits a parked car, a mailbox or some kind of road sign, and just keeps going. Many times, when a driver hits another vehicle in traffic, the license number of the vehicle that caused the contact is obtained, and later given to the police. Obviously, it’s easier to plow over a mailbox at 3 a.m. and go undetected than it is to hit another driver. Also, because alcohol is often involved, the offending driver may completely underestimate the degree of contact or amount of damage he or she caused.
I’ve had cases that involved contact so slight that the person didn’t realize it and that resulted in an almost undetectable scratch, to cases where the driver beached the car somewhere after breaking off a wheel, left it, and went home, only to be roused by the police knocking at the front door.
A key thing to remember is that a PDA situation is kind of like a bad DUI (at least in those cases where a person is unable to demonstrate that he or she was not drinking) specifically because there was an accident. Most drinking and driving arrests don’t involve an accident. In fact, in the vast majority of drunk driving cases, the person simply gets pulled over for something like speeding or swerving and then winds up getting caught after having had a few too many.
A DUI with an accident is always worse than a simple DUI without one. When it’s believed a person charged with leaving the scene of a PDA had been drinking, it makes sense that he or she is seen as even more dangerous than someone merely stopped for drinking and driving without having hit anything. So what are consequences, as in punishment, for a PDA hit and run?