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Hit and Run-What Does the Law Require?

Posted Thursday, February 11, 2021 by Andrew Charles Huff

In my practice I have represented many people accused of striking another vehicle and then immediately leave the scene. There are several reasons why a person decides to leave a collision, however small without stopping and providing their name and insurance information. Sometimes they panic or didn’t know they struck a vehicle or simply were not aware of their legal obligations.

The criminal charge of “Hit and Run” is a common one that unless handled properly, can result in a criminal conviction, driver’s license suspension, court costs and potentially jail time. But it’s also a charge that can be resolved successfully, protecting your record and license.

The less serious of this charge is called “Hit and Run-Unattended, a misdemeanor under RCW 46.52.10. This law requires a driver who collides with an unattended vehicle to stop and try to locate the owner. If they cannot find the owner, the driver must leave a written note (including name and address) in a conspicuous place. Penalties for this offense may include 0-90 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.00.The more serious charge is the “Hit and Run-Attended” under RCW 46.52.020, a gross misdemeanor. When a driver strikes another vehicle that is occupied, they must immediately stop and provide the other driver their name, address, insurance information, and driver’s license information. Penalties for this offense include up to 364 days in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. A conviction will also trigger a driver’s license suspension.

Both these offenses contain a “mens rea” element, meaning that you must be aware you were involved in a collision to be found guilty of the charge. Moreover, to be found guilty of this offense, the collision must have produced damage. If you collided into something but no damage has occurred, then no hit & run has occurred.

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