A hit and run offense is a serious crime in North Carolina, and there is more than one way a driver can violate this law. If you have been arrested for causing a hit and run accident, you could be facing a lengthy jail or prison sentence and large fines. In addition, you would have a permanent criminal record that can affect your ability to obtain a job, housing, education and more.
If you want to avoid the harsh consequences you face, you need to retain an experienced traffic ticket lawyer as soon as possible. They can mount a strong defense that may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a much less serious offense.
What Is a Hit and Run Offense?
Hit and run can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony in North Carolina. There are six ways that a person can commit this offense in our state. Under N.C.G.S. 20-166, it is a crime to do the following:
- Failing to stop or remain at the scene of an accident when someone was seriously injured or killed
- Failing to stop or remain at the crash scene when a victim suffered a personal injury
- Failing to provide information or assistance when someone suffered a personal injury in the accident
- Failing to stop at the scene when there was property damage but no apparent personal injuries or death caused by the collision
- Failing to provide information when there was no obvious personal injuries or death but there was property damage as a result of the crash
- Failing to notify the police of a reportable accident
Penalties for Hit and Run
North Carolina follows a complex sentencing system that takes into account the circumstances of the crime and the defendant’s past criminal history. If convicted, an individual could face these penalties:
- Misdemeanor. Hit and run is often charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. A defendant could be sentenced to up to 120 days in jail and a fine.
- Felony. Hit and run would be charged as a Class H felony if a victim suffered personal injuries and a Class F felony if the accident resulted in serious injuries or death. The punishment for a Class H felony is 4 to 25 months in jail or prison and an expensive fine. If the conviction is for a Class F felony, the sentence could include 10 to 41 months in prison and a hefty fine.
In addition to these penalties, a defendant could have their driver’s license revoked for up to two years without the right to obtain a restricted license.
Defenses to Hit and Run Offenses
Raising the right defenses is crucial when fighting hit and run charges. The right defense can establish that you did not commit the crime or raise reasonable doubt, which can prevent the prosecutor from proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt—which is a high standard of proof to meet.
At Browning & Long, PLLC, our knowledgeable lawyers are former prosecutors who understand how the prosecution will try to convict someone charged with a hit and run crime. We know how important it is to thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding a hit and run arrest to develop a defense strategy tailored to achieve the best result for our clients. Here are some defenses that can work in these cases—even if you believe you are guilty.
Lack of Knowledge
Knowledge is a key element that the prosecutor must prove to convict you of causing a hit and run accident. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to argue:
- You did not know that you were involved in an accident.
- You did not know that the collision caused any property damage, personal injuries, or death.
Leaving the Scene Temporarily
Depending on your situation, you may be able to argue that you only left the scene temporarily and intended to return. You would need to show that you had a legitimate reason for leaving.
Responding to an Emergency
If you got in a hit and run accident while driving due to an emergency, you may be able to argue that this was a valid reason not to stop. This defense could work if you were driving to the hospital or urgent care facility due to a medical emergency someone else or you were experiencing or you had another family or other crisis.
In a hit and run accident, the accused must be identified by the police, victim, or witnesses in some fashion. It may be possible to challenge your identification as the person who committed the crime even if you believe you are guilty.
Unfortunately, the police make mistakes and sometimes falsely accuse people of a crime they did not commit. If you are innocent of causing a hit and run accident, proving that you were falsely accused could result in the charges against you being dismissed.
Were you arrested for hit and run in Mecklenburg County? Call our Charlotte office to schedule a free consultation to learn how we will aggressively fight the charges you face.