The truth is, if you leave the scene, you’re only making matters worse.
As much as it may seem that driving away will solve your problem, it is never the best option. Whether you’ve caused damage to the vehicle or a person, leaving the scene of the accident can result in your facing an additional criminal charge — one for “Leaving the Scene of an Accident,” or otherwise called “Hit and Run.” These two phrases are sometimes used interchangeably.
Hit and Run Charge Basics
Generally speaking, you can be charged with hit and run if you leave the scene of an accident without stopping to exchange contact and insurance information with the other person involved.
It’s best to avoid this charge altogether by doing the right thing after you have an accident. If you don’t, you could face serious penalties, including fines and jail time. We will discuss those below.
To avoid a hit and run charge, you need to stop your vehicle as close to the scene of the accident as you can. Then you need to stay at the scene until you’ve met all of the requirements. What you’re “required” to do depends on the type of accident.
If you’ve hit a car with a person in it, you need to give this person your information. The statute says a person “shall give his name, address and the registration number of the vehicle he is driving and shall upon request and if available [show] his driver’s license to the person struck or the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle collided with and shall render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the carrying or making arrangements for the carrying of such person to a physician, surgeon or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such carrying is requested by the injured person. 56-5-1230
If you’ve hit an unattended car or any other property, you need to try to find the person to whom the car or property belongs and give this person your information. If you can’t find the person, leave the information along with a statement of what happened on the vehicle or property. 56-5-1240.
If you’ve injured someone, you need to help that person and assist in calling for medical help if it’s needed.
Charges and Penalties for Leaving the Scene
There are five different charges you could face if you commit a hit and run. The specific charge you face will depend on whether there was anyone in the vehicle, whether there was any injury to a person and, if there was, how badly the person was injured.
The five types of Hit and Run or Leaving the Scene charges are below.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident or Hit and Run resulting in:
For example, if you strike a mailbox or fence.
|Misdemeanor||Up to 30 days||$100 plus costs|
If you collide with or damage a vehicle with no one in it you could be facing a misdemeanor.
|Misdemeanor||At least 30 days||$100|
Damage to Attended Vehicles 56-5-1220
If you only damaged a vehicle with someone in it, but cause no injury to the person.
|Misdemeanor||Up to 1 year||$100 to $5,000|
You could face jail time, the fine, OR both.
Resulting in Minor Personal Injury 56-5-1210(A)(1)
If you injure someone, but you don’t injury him or her very seriously, you will face this charge.
|Misdemeanor||30 days up to 1 year||$100 to $5,000|
You could face jail time, a fine, OR both.
Resulting in Great Bodily Injury 56-5-1210(A)(2)
You could face this charge if you hurt someone such that they suffer “injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.”
|Felony||30 days – 10 years||$5,000 to $10,000|
You will face jail time AND a fine.
Resulting in Death 56-5-1210(A)(3)
You will face this charge if you leave the scene and someone is killed.
|Felony||1 – 25 years||$10,000 to $25,000|
You will face both jail time AND a fine.
Leaving the Scene
The only time it’s okay to leave the scene of an accident is if you leave to go get help from the authorities. In this case, you can leave the scene. If you have a way to call for help without leaving the scene, however, that is always a better option.
I get lots of questions about hit and run charges. Here are answers to some of the ones I receive most often.
1. What’s the legal process for a hit and run?
Hit and run charges are handled in Magistrate’s court if they carry 30 days or less and otherwise are in General Session Court.
If they charge you, you will have to defend against the charges and/or face the consequences. That defense can be by a bench trial or jury trial.
2. Is a hit and run a felony?
It can be, but only if someone suffers Great Bodily Injury or Death.
3. Can I be charged with hit and run if no damage results?
That creates an interesting legal question. If you are involved in an accident involving an “Attended” vehicle, damage is an element of the offense. However, if the vehicle is unattended any “Collision” or contact counts. Therefore the statutes create an anomaly. The safe bet is to stop under any scenario.
4. Can I lose my license over a hit and run?
Yes. With fixtures and unattended vehicles, there are 6 points assessed against your license. With the other charges where an injury occurs, there is a mandatory license suspension.
5. Do I need a lawyer for hit and run charges?
Definitely. Leaving the scene or a hit and run charge can mean up to 25 years in jail and a fine of up to $25,000. You need someone experienced on your side to fight your charges.
Someone on Your Side
Are you facing a hit and run charge in SC? Get the help you need today. Contact me online or call my office at 843-376-5524. I’ve got the experience you need to fight your charges and get the best possible outcome.