What Laws Apply to Hit and Run Cases in Virginia?

Hit and run cases are fairly common in any criminal and traffic practice. Virginia has created a complex series of statutes governing the various reporting responsibilities of drivers and passengers involved in accidents.

The primary statute is Virginia Code §46.2-894, which provides in essence that the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident involving attended property which results in death, injury, or property damage shall "forthwith" report such accident to law enforcement or to the occupants of the other vehicle. In addition, the driver must render assistance as required by the circumstances in the event of injury. Where a driver is unable to comply because of his own injuries, he must do so "as soon as reasonably possible."

Violation of this section is a Class 5 felony if the accident results in death, injury, or damages in excess of $1,000. If the accident only results in damages less than $1,000 (and no injury), the person is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Given the nature of cars today, it is fairly rare to have an accident involving damages of less than $1,000, so these charges are very often felonies.

The duty to report is not limited to the driver, as Virginia Code §46.2-895 requires that where the driver fails to make a report, every occupant of the vehicle 16 years of age or older has a duty to report the accident to law enforcement within 24 hours. Failure to comply is a Class 6 felony if the accident resulted in death or injury. Otherwise this violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Pursuant to Virginia Code §46.2-896, where the driver strikes an unattended vehicle or property he has an obligation to make "reasonable effort" to locate the owner, and failing to do so, shall leave a note identifying himself to the owner. In addition, he must report the accident in writing to law enforcement within 24 hours. Violation of this statute is punished as in §46.2-895.

All of these code sections and reporting requirements apply on both public and private property. These types of accidents often occur in private parking lots, but the same reporting requirements apply. Depending upon the circumstances, hit and run in Virginia can carry the possibility of lengthy prison time. Regardless of the circumstances, hit and run charges can have a detrimental effect on your record. These are criminal, not traffic, offenses, and for that reason they should not be treated lightly by a defendant. Often these cases are assigned to top prosecutors within the Commonwealth Attorney's office, so proceeding without an experienced attorney of your own is perilous, if not foolish.

If you have been charged with hit and run, contact our office right away. There is much that can be done to address these charges. We will sit down with you and discuss the best avenues of defense based upon your specific case.

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