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Whether you’re the person who enacted the hit-and-run or an individual hoping to see the perpetrator of the crime sentenced to justice, it’s helpful to know what category a crime falls under. Is it a misdemeanor or a felony, resulting in much more severe punishment?
A hit-and-run is a misdemeanor if it’s minor and no injuries are sustained, resulting in a much smaller punishment. A hit-and-run is a felony if there is serious bodily harm or death from the incident. The guilty party will face more severe punishment.
If you’re interested in learning more about the criminal classification of a hit-and-run, you've come to the right place. It’s helpful to know what you should expect if you are ever in any part of a hit-and-run case.
Is A Hit-And-Run A Felony?
A hit-and-run can be a felony or a misdemeanor. It’s a felony when there is serious injury, bodily harm, or death after the incident. These hit-and-runs typically occur if a car hits a pedestrian or a person on a bike or runs into another vehicle at a high rate of speed.
Not every hit-and-run is a felony. However, when they are felonies, the person at fault usually causes critical damage to the victim. There are consequences for a hit-and-run that falls under the category of felony.
Examples Of Felony Hit-And-Runs
A felony is a serious crime, and there are several instances where a hit-and-run falls under this vital category. Let’s discuss a few examples to give you a better idea of this scenario and prepare for it should it happen to you.
A few examples of felony hit-and-runs include the following scenarios: :
- An individual hits a person on their bike, and they experience severe harm
- An individual plows into another vehicle, and the person in the other car passes away
- An individual rams into a pedestrian and causes serious bodily harm
These incidents would likely result in a felony classification from a court of law.
If the victim of a hit-and-run experiences life-changing injuries or passes away, the person behind the wheel and drove away could be charged with a felony for the incident. There are several consequences they may experience as a result.
Punishments For A Hit-And-Run Felony
Individuals responsible for a hit-and-run felony face serious consequences for their actions. These are severe and could alter the life of the person deemed guilty of the crime, from removing extensive money from their bank account to disrupting their ability to live as free individuals.
Here are a few potential punishments for a hit-and-run felony:
- Multiple years in jail, sometimes going as high as life in prison
- Suspension or probation of license
- Pricey fines of thousands of dollars
You might waste your life in jail if convicted of a hit-and-run felony, making the action less than worth it for the average driver.
Of course, not every hit-and-run case is this serious. Some might receive the classification of a misdemeanor - but what does this label mean? What makes a misdemeanor different from a hit-and-run felony?
When Is A Hit-And-Run A Misdemeanor?
A hit-and-run is a misdemeanor if the person impacted experiences no critical injuries or if no people were involved. If no one needs to pay hospital bills or experiences life-changing injuries, a hit-and-run typically falls under the misdemeanor category in a court of law.
Not every hit-and-run is serious to be a felony, and those more minor are considered misdemeanors. Those acquitted of this classification will experience less severe punishments for their actions.
Examples Of Misdemeanor Hit-And-Runs
It can be tricky to envision a misdemeanor hit-and-run, especially when compared to the severe backdrop of a felony hit-and-run crime. Let’s go over a few misdemeanor instances you might encounter.
Here are a few examples of misdemeanor hit-and-runs in the world:
- A driver goes through a mailbox and drives away
- A driver hits a parked and unoccupied car and drives away
- A driver runs over a bike and drives away
These typically end up in a misdemeanor sentencing for the guilty party.
The definition of a misdemeanor hit-and-run is different from a felony, and so are the resulting punishments. Let’s go over some typical consequences for misdemeanor hit-and-runs to give you a better idea of what you expect in these situations.
Punishments For A Hit-And-Run Misdemeanor
The consequences for a misdemeanor are less significant than a felony, though they are still severe. Let’s discuss a few things you could face if convicted of a hit-and-run misdemeanor in your area.
Punishments for a hit-and-run misdemeanor typically include the following items:
- Half a year in jail
- Points on a driver’s license
Users will pay or stay in jail for a short period to pay for their actions.
Although a misdemeanor isn’t as serious as a felony, it’s still something the authorities take to heart. Ensure you refrain from committing felonies and misdemeanors to keep your freedom and others safe while on the road.
Why Do People Hit-And-Run?
It might seem confusing that people would run from the crime instead of facing their actions. However, many items may cause a driver to book it in the opposite direction instead of considering the noble thing to do.
There are a couple of reasons drivers typically flee the scene:
- Fear: A driver might be terrified of what happened and unwilling to face it.
- Outstanding warrant: The individual could have a warrant out for their arrest and know waiting around means jail time.
- No license: The driver could be without a license, driving illegally.
- No insurance: The person behind the wheel might not have insurance to cover the accident.
- Criminal intent: The incident could be malicious, done with the intent to harm or kill a specific person.
Some reasons are much worse than others.
No matter why a driver runs from a scene, it’s still not the right thing to do. The guilty party must take responsibility for their actions, assist the victim, report the crime, and exchange insurance information.
What Evidence Is Needed To Convict A Hit-And-Run?
Those who are victims of a hit-and-run may want to take their case to court to ensure they receive justice for the situation. Individuals looking to convict a hit-and-run need a few things to secure the case.
If you want to convict a hit-and-run, you need the following evidence:
- Proof the accident happened
- Proof the defendant drove the car involved
- Proof the defendant knew the accident happened
- Proof the defendant did not stop of their own accord
- Proof the victim experienced harm from the accident
These will prove the guilty party and make their guilt clear in court.
If you have proof of all five of these items, you should have no trouble convicting the guilty party of a hit-and-run. However, if there is missing information, you might have a trickier time making and proving your case.
Possible Defenses For A Hit-And-Run
Not every hit-and-run case occurs with malicious intent in mind. There are several possible defenses if you’re terrified of being labeled as guilty of a hit-and-run during your lifetime.
Possible defenses for a hit-and-run include the following reasons:
- Temporarily left: Prove you left the scene briefly and came back to secure this defense.
- Emergency response: Maybe the hit-and-run happened because you were responding to an emergency and didn’t have time to pause.
- Mistaken identity: You can challenge your identification as the guilty party with a mistaken identity.
- False accusation: In some cases, you might not be guilty of the crime and genuinely need to tell law enforcement you belong elsewhere.
- No knowledge: Another quality defense is to prove you had no knowledge of the incident and thus have no reason to turn around and go back.
These defenses could get you out of being guilty in a hit-and-run case.
If you don’t think you’re guilty, it’s a good idea to fight your hit-and-run with a quality defense. It will save you a world of potential hurt, including keeping your criminal record clear.
How Many Points Is A Hit-and-Run?
A hit-and-run is at least a few points on your license. Although most states add points to those guilty of a hit-and-run, the specific number varies by state. For example, North Carolina will add 12 points to the license of a person who commits a hit-and-run that results in bodily injury or death.
The more points you have on your license, the worse your future as a driver. If you get too many, you could experience license suspension or expulsion. It’s best to drive as safely as possible to hold onto your driving privileges.
How Long Do You Have To Report A Hit-And-Run?
Once a hit-and-run occurs, you must report the incident within twenty-four hours. If you are behind the wheel, this time frame is especially critical.
You should also ensure you report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible to prepare them for payments. Insurance companies are typically more flexible, offering a few days to report the accident instead of a single twenty-four-hour period.
What To Do As The Victim Of A Hit-And-Run
It’s terrifying to be in a hit-and-run. Although it might seem tempting to sit down and cry, there are a few things you should do. Get on your feet as soon as possible for a secure future after such a terrible accident.
If you’re the victim of a hit-and-run, there are a few steps you should take:
- Go somewhere safe: Move somewhere safe as soon as possible to avoid getting hit by another car while waiting for law enforcement to arrive.
- Get assistance for injuries: If you’re hurt, ensure you get care as soon as possible.
- Call 911: Call the authorities to get assistance for injuries and back-up for the hit-and-run as soon as possible.
- Document the scene: Take pictures, notes, and interview bystanders to get as much information as possible for future court cases.
- Get a lawyer: Invest in a lawyer as soon as possible. Once authorities locate the person responsible for the hit-and-run, you will need to head to court to get what you are owed for the incident.
These steps will ensure you have a good shot at getting justice for your situation.
It might feel overwhelming to be in a hit-and-run, but you need to act as soon as possible to remain safe and get justice. The more information you can gather for the authorities, the easier it will be for them to find the perpetrator.
What To Do As The Guilty Party In An Accident
It might be tempting to flee the scene if you run into a property or a person. However, that choice is one of the worst things you can do. It’s always best to take ownership of the situation and help where possible.
If you’re the person who causes the accident, there are a few steps you should take:
- Do not leave the scene: Remain at the scene and help in any way you can. Do not run away, even if it seems like a safe choice.
- Ensure you’re out of harm’s way: Move to the side of the road or away from the street if possible.
- Report the accident: Report the incident to the police as soon as possible to ensure it’s documented.
- Exchange information: Talk to the victim and exchange contact and insurance information to ensure each person gets everything they need.
- Document the scene: Take pictures of the scene and document everything for your insurance.
- Tell the insurance company: Speak to your insurance company to prepare them for coverage for the accident.
These steps will ensure everyone gets what they deserve in the case.
Always provide as much information as you can, help with any wounded individuals, and report the incident as soon as possible. If you take responsibility, the consequences will be much less severe than if you ran away.
Reference Legal Explanations
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"Is A Hit And Run A Felony?". Legal Explanations. Accessed on September 29, 2023. https://legal-explanations.com/blog/is-a-hit-and-run-a-felony/.
"Is A Hit And Run A Felony?". Legal Explanations, https://legal-explanations.com/blog/is-a-hit-and-run-a-felony/. Accessed 29 September, 2023
Is A Hit And Run A Felony?. Legal Explanations. Retrieved from https://legal-explanations.com/blog/is-a-hit-and-run-a-felony/.