Criminal Defense Lawyer Norfolk, VA and throughout Hampton Roads
Criminal Defense Lawyer Norfolk, VA and throughout Hampton Roads

Hit and Run Defense Lawyers in Norfolk, VA

The trial experience you need on your side

Were you charged with leaving the scene of an accident (hit and run) in Virginia? This criminal traffic violation can carry serious penalties, including jail or prison time, fines, loss of your driver’s license, and more. You need to fight back, and you need the right attorney on your side to protect your rights. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Welch & Wright, PLLC can help.

What is a hit and run in Virginia?

Va. Code Sections 46.2-894, 46.2-895, 46.2-896 and 46.2-897 outline the crime of illegally leaving the scene of accident, more commonly known as a “hit and run.”

Va. Code Section 46.2-894 creates an affirmative duty of someone involved in accident to do three things:

  1. contact and notify law enforcement
  2. notify the owner of the damaged property, and
  3. if the motor vehicle accident involved an occupied vehicle, to render “reasonable assistance” to that person if they are injured.

The only defense to not doing each of these three things is that the defendant was unable to do them due to injuries sustained because of the accident, but the person still must do these 3 things as soon as they are able.

When notifying the person whose vehicle or property was damaged, the driver must give them their name, address, driver’s license number and vehicle registration number. It also helps to exchange insurance information. This is not required, but often helps mitigate the circumstances if the case goes to court.

Can you be charged with hit and run for hitting someone’s property?

Yes. Va. Code Section 46.2-896 outlines the duties of a driver involved in an accident that causes damage to unattended property (like someone’s mailbox or fence). They are required to make reasonable efforts to locate the owner of the property. If the driver cannot find the owner of the property, they must leave a note or something similar in writing in a conspicuous place at the scene of the accident that includes their name and contact information.

The driver is also required to make a report to the State Police or local law enforcement in writing within 24 hours of the accident. This report must include the date, time, and place of the accident as well as a description of the property damaged. If the driver is physically unable to make this report due to injuries sustained as a result of the accident, they must make the report as soon as reasonably possible.

Can you be charged with hit and run as a passenger?

Yes. Va. Code Section 46.2-895 creates an affirmative duty for others in the vehicle with the driver who causes the accident. If you are a passenger, were aware of the accident, and are 16 years or older, you are required to notify the State Police or local law enforcement within 24 hours. The passenger is required to give the name, address and any other information about the driver that is within their knowledge when reporting the accident.

Va. Code Section 46.2-897 makes the same requirement of passengers in a vehicle that strikes unattended property to make a report to the State Police or local law enforcement within 24 hours of the accident. Again, this applies as long as the passenger is 16 years of age or older and was aware of the accident.

Is hit and run a misdemeanor or a felony in Virginia?

Hit and run charges can be either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the facts of the case and the prosecutor’s discretion.

The amount of damage done and whether the vehicle or property was occupied determine whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony charge.

  • A hit and run charge is a Class 5 felony if someone was injured or killed due to the accident or the property damage amounts to more than $1,000. A Class 5 felony conviction can result in a prison sentence of at least 1 year and up to 10 years, as well as a fine of up to $2,500.
  • The charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor if the accident only caused property damage worth at least $250 but no more than $1,000. A Class 1 misdemeanor conviction can result in a jail sentence of up to 1 year, and a fine of up to $2,500.
  • If the damage was to property only and was under $250, then the charge is a Class 4 misdemeanor. A Class 4 misdemeanor conviction can result in only a fine not to exceed $250.

Anyone convicted of these hit and run charges, in addition to jail and fines, can also have their license suspended by the court. If the damage was done to property and it was above $500, the court can suspend the defendant’s license for up to 6 months.

The right defense attorney can make a big difference in your hit and run case

The first thing to note about hit and run cases is that they can be notoriously hard to prove because there quite often is no direct evidence of the crime. In other words, there tend to not be witnesses to the accident or some type of video footage of the scene. Further, many of these accidents occur at night, usually making it harder for any potential witnesses to clearly see what happened. And remember, the accident itself is not what makes this a crime; it is leaving the scene without notifying the authorities and without attempting to notify the victim whose property was damaged.

Therefore, many of these cases are proven through circumstantial evidence, such as damage to the defendant’s vehicle matching the damage to the victim’s vehicle or property (like red paint of the defendant’s car appearing on the victim’s white car). There are numerous ways an experienced trial attorney can challenge this evidence in court.

Each case is different, and the charges and possible defenses depend on the facts of each individual case. The attorneys at Welch & Wright have vast experience in these types of cases and are more than willing to work with you through every step of the legal process. If you have been charged with hit and run, contact us today for a free consultation.

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