You are driving around on a wintery Massachusetts night, maybe after a couple of drinks that you are sure did not effect you. All of a sudden there is a large bumping feeling and a sound that tells you that you have hit something. The temptation is to put the problem, whatever it may be, behind you and to get out of there fast. You think that to do otherwise is foolhardy and could cost you your license and the need to hire one of those criminal defense attorneys.
Avoid that temptation. The fact is that leaving the scene of an accident, whether physical injury to a person or simply property damage was caused, only makes a bad situation worse.
Let’s look at a couple of very recent examples.
17-year old Sandwich teen, Sarah G. (hereinafter, “:Teen Defendant”) began the new year after collecting a bunch of charges that were only made worse by leaving the scene. She is drove into the rear of a police cruiser. She then apparently tried to leave the scene but was apprehended shortly thereafter. She is now facing charges which include leaving the scene of an accident, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, failure to stop for police and underage alcohol possession, according to the Cape Cod Times.
Police allege that Griffin failed to stop after hitting the cruiser at 1:12 a.m. Saturday.
Meanwhile, a 61 year old retired Quincy firefighter, Paul D. (hereinafter, “Firefighter Defendant”) was arraigned yesterday in connection with a fatal hit-and-run on Christmas Eve. He was arraigned in Quincy District Court .on charges of negligent driving, motor vehicle homicide due to negligent operation and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.
While he had originally left the scene, he eventually contacted an attorney and then turned himself in. The 61-year-old Daley turned himself in last week after contacting authorities through his attorney. Police cited him after interviewing him and examining his vehicle.
Nobody wants to get into trouble. The bigger the trouble, the more incentive there is to try to get out of it. Unfortunately, that is also what bail hearings are all about.
It is worth remembering, though, that there are levels of trouble and that, in trying to escape trouble, we can easily dig the hole deeper.
Teen Defendant must have been mighty scared after plowing into the back of a police car. Especially, as it turns out, when there was alcohol in the car. However, assuming this was the first time, she was likely looking at a civil lawsuit for the property damage, a Continuance Without A Finding for the driving and additional issues when it was time to get a driver’s license. Now? She is facing jail time. The statute talks about a range between two weeks and two years.
Firefighter Defendant, a man who has spent his life serving the Commonwealth, now faces a mandatory one year and possible 10 year prison sentence. Had he stopped, and had the accident been shown to be simply an accident, there would have been a civil lawsuit, but no criminal charges. If there were criminal charges, there is nothing to indicate that he would have been looking at such penalties. Now…he is facing homicide charges.
Aside from more serious charges and sentences, leaving the scene of the accident continues to bring negative bonus points throughout the process. For example, at a bail hearing, the prosecutor now has something to use to indicate that you are likely to be a flight risk and so should be held on higher bail. In fact, leaving the scene has been used to show dangerousness at a hearing to hold defendants without bail.
Down the road, if there is a question of pleading guilty, the action of leaving the scene will be an aggravating factor which the Commonwealth and judge will likely take into account. At trial, it can be used as evidence of “consciousness of guilt”.
Simply put: leaving the scene of an accident in which property damage or personal injury was caused only takes a bad situation and makes it much, much worse.
Under the law, you must stop and give your information. Under common sense, you then contact an attorney as soon as possible (as well as your insurance carrier). While insurance generally covers the cost, and indeed chooses, your attorney for the civil lawsuit, this is not the case with criminal charges. You want to hire an experienced attorney to advise and help you as soon as possible….after stopping and giving your required information..
If you are facing such a nightmare and wish to discuss it with me, please feel free to contact me at 617-492-3000.
To read the original stories upon which today’s blog is based, please go to http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1223068 and : http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1223246