A hit and run occurs anytime someone leaves the scene of a car crash involving property damage, injury, or death. It also includes leaving the scene without giving all of your information. In Texas, a hit and run is a serious criminal charge, and depending on the severity of the crash, it can range from a misdemeanor to a felony. If you are involved in a hit and run, make sure you have a lawyer experienced in hit and run cases on your side.
Jail Time and Penalties
In the state of Texas, if you are guilty of a hit and run where a person has been injured or killed, you will be charged with a felony. The penalty can be anywhere from 2 to 20 years in prison. Even if the injury isn’t serious, you can still be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison, or have to pay a fine up to $5,000.
Hit and run isn’t just when you hit or injure a person. If you damage property with a value less than $200 you will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. If the damage is over $200, you will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.
For a Class C misdemeanor, you will have to pay a fine up to $500. There is no jail time with a Class C misdemeanor. With a class B misdemeanor, you can be sentenced to pay a fine or serve up to six months in jail.
What to Do if you are being Investigated for a Hit and Run
If you think you are being investigated for a hit and run
- Contact a criminal defense lawyer right away
- Do not make statements to your own insurance without advice from counsel
- Do not make statements to the police.
Don’t Make Any Statements Without Legal Advice
If you are being investigated for a hit and run, do not make any admissions to anyone. This includes your own insurance carrier. Remember your Miranda rights that you have heard in movies throughout the years. Anything you say can and will be used against you. This is especially true on these types of cases. Frequently, a license number is all the police have to go on. When you make admissions that you were the driver, you may be talking yourself into a felony charge. When you make admissions to your own insurance carrier, those communications are recorded. Those recordings can be subpoenaed by the State to prove a criminal case against you. It’s best to consult a criminal defense lawyer at the earliest possible time. They can help guide you through the potentially precarious situation.
What to Do to Not Be Charged with a Hit and Run
If you are involved in an accident, the most important thing you can do to not be charged with a hit and run is to be responsible for your actions. It will cost you more if you run than if you stay and are responsible. When you are on the scene, make sure you:
- See if anyone is injured. If anyone is injured, call for medical help.
- Provide identifying information.
In the case of an accident, you need to share enough of your personal information, but what counts as enough of your personal information? When it comes to personal information, each party, not just you, should share with the other their:
- Driver’s license number
- Insurance information (provider and policy number)
- First and last name
- License plate number
- Contact information (a phone number and/or address)
Even if you stay on the scene of the accident and make sure everyone is okay, sharing partial or incomplete information can lead to being charged with a hit and run. Be sure everyone involved has each other’s information before you leave. An additional thing that can be helpful in your case is to get the contact information of all witnesses to the accident. You do not need to get their statements or do your own investigation, but it is helpful for those who will be later investigating or settling the civil liability side of the accident.
Another thing you need to do when involved in an accident is to take your own pictures of the accident scene. While other people might be taking pictures, it’s always good to get your own pictures to verify what happened on the scene of the crash. Those pictures can help in determining fault or verifying the damage, or lack thereof, that was done in the accident.
Hit and run charges are not only involved with other people. You can be charged with a hit and run if you damage a person’s property and do not leave contact information. If you damage someone’s property you are expected to put a reasonable amount of effort into contacting him or her about the incident. This can include leaving your personal information on their car windshield, or if they are a neighbor, visiting them when they are home and giving them your personal information. While there is a window of opportunity for you to get in contact with the property owner, it is always better to try to contact them with your information sooner rather than later.
What to Do If You Are the Victim of a Hit and Run
If you have been a victim of a hit and run, there are a few things that can help you find justice:
- Don’t chase the person running
- Call the police
- Write down details
- Ask witnesses to stay or for their contact information
Don’t Chase the Offender
Do not chase the other car. Your car might be damaged, and you or other passengers might be injured after the accident. Trying to catch the offender isn’t worth the potential damage you can cause to yourself, others, or your vehicle. There is also an escalated chance of danger when you chase after a person in your car. You do not know who they are, or why they chose to run. You do not need to put yourself in that dangerous of a situation.
Call the Police
Always call the police. No matter the size or intensity of the accident, always call. It is always better to involve the police. It costs you nothing but time, and it helps protects you.
Write Down Details
The first thing you should do after you are involved in a hit and run is to write down as much information and details about the situation as you can remember. A license plate number is invaluable if even a partial number. If everything happens too fast and you can’t get their license plate number, try to remember any information you can. Basic information like car make, model, and color can be helpful. Write it all down. If you don’t have a pen and paper with you, use your phone and text the information to a friend.
Ask Witnesses to Stay
Once you are safe, have called the police, and have written down the details you have remembered, try to find anyone nearby who could act as a witness to the crime. As the victim of the hit and run, you might have missed some important details of who hit you, and what exactly happened. Having witnesses helps you strengthen your case and find justice for what happened to you.
Eric Harron Can Help You
If you’ve been accused of committing a hit and run, or if you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence in a hit and run, Eric Harron can help. Eric has been practicing law in Texas since 2007. Alongside Eric is an experienced team of lawyers and paralegals with decades of combined experience and an impressive record in those cases. The Law Office of Eric Harron can help you get justice for your case. Contact us for a free consultation to learn how we can help you win your hit and run case.