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Virginia Traffic Law: Is Leaving The Scene of an Accident Considered a Felony or Misdemeanor?

In juridictions throughout Northern Virginia, the charge of Leaving the Scene of an Accident, or Hit and Run as it is commonly referred to, frequently appears on the traffic/criminal docket.

Traffic laws in Virginia are set out in the Code of Virginia, primarily in Title 46.2.  The Code of Virginia also defines whether a crime is considered a misdemeanor or a felony.  Generally, misdemeanors are offenses that come with no more than 12 months in jail and felonies are offenses for which jail time can exceed anything over one year.  That is the basic distinction between the two.  As you would assume from the penalties involved, a misdemeanor is a lesser offense than a felony.

Section 46.2-894 of the Code of Virgina places a duty on any driver involved in an accident to immediately stop as close to the scene of the accident as possible without obstructing the flow of traffic.  Section 46.2-894 also requires any driver involved in an accident to provide certain information to the other driver and/or law enforcement, as well as render reasonable assistance to any injured persons.  Failure to do so is a jailable traffic traffic offense that carries with it the possible punishments described above.  Whether or not the offense is a felony or misdemeanor hinges on if the accident results in injury to or the death of any person, or if the accident causes more than $1,000.00 in damage.

Essentially, failing to stop at the scene of a garden variety fender-bender where there are no injuries and only miminal damage to a vehicle should proceed as a misdemeanor offense.  However, anyone that has ever had to take their car to a body shop following an accident knows that $1,000.00 in damage is a benchmark that is easily reached.  Depending on the year, make, and model of the cars involved, a broken taillight and crushed bumper can cost thousands to repair.  Also, you likely noticed that the amount or type of injury sustained is not defined by the Code of Virginia.  Obviously death and serious physical injury are intended to be covered.  But what about a sprained wrist or a small bruise to a knee?

If you’ve been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, you should speak with an experienced traffic law attorney to discuss your rights and options.

*This blog site is intended to give for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed as formal legal advice and should not be interpreted to create a lawyer/client relationship. 

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