Everyone knows that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lead to some serious criminal charges, not to mention the danger that intoxicated driving puts the driver and others in. Drunk driving is responsible for hundreds of thousands of injuries every year, and law enforcement officials enact severe penalties to discourage drivers from making the same choice to drink and drive again.
For this reason, a person who drives drunk and causes an accident may be tempted to flee from the scene, in an effort to avoid being caught. While this does make it more difficult for the police to catch the driver initially, it increases the likelihood that the driver will be heavily prosecuted when he or she is caught and it is likely to result in additional criminal charges. Officers will investigate the accident to determine how it was caused and who was at fault, and once they catch the driver, the charge of DWI may be accompanied by charges of Leaving the Scene of an Accident and Resisting Arrest or Eluding.
In New Jersey, there is both a motor vehicle charge (N.J.S.A. 39:4-129) and a criminal offense (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1) for fleeing the scene of the accident. While both laws cover the same action, there are important differences. Each law has its own penalties, but the two work hand in hand.
If a driver who is involved in an accident knowingly leaves the scene, he can be charged with the motor vehicle violation and the criminal offense. If the accident causes serious bodily harm to another driver, passenger, or pedestrian, the driver who flees can be charged with a crime in the third degree or fourth degree, depending on the severity of the accident and the injuries.
How is Fleeing the Scene Investigated and Prosecuted?
Obviously, if the driver has fled the scene, the police have to locate him first before he can be charged with a crime. The police can use clues from the accident—paint scratches, tire marks, eyewitness testimony, traffic camera data, and more—to find the driver and prove that his car was involved. Once the driver has been found, the investigation into whether he was drunk at the time of the accident and whether he knowingly fled will begin.
In order to prove that a driver violated the state’s laws, law enforcement officials will need to determine that the driver left the scene after causing the accident without fulfilling his obligation to check on the others in the car contact the police. The police will also investigate whether the driver was intoxicated to charge him with a DUI/DWI, through a blood alcohol sample, footage of the driver on the night of the accident, receipts from a bar, or other evidence.
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It’s obviously a challenge to prove that a driver fled the scene of an accident, and even more so to prove that he was drunk at the time, but if the charges stick, the driver could have his license suspended and face fines and jail time. If you’ve been accused of DUI and leaving the scene of an accident, contact Scott Gorman at The Gorman Law Firm. He is a leading Hackensack DWI lawyer who can help you defend yourself and protect your driving privileges.
Published in Categories: DUI / DWI