North Carolina Hit and Run Defense Attorneys
In North Carolina, leaving the scene of a car accident is illegal. If you are facing criminal hit-and-run charges for allegedly leaving the scene of an accident, the penalties can be severe. You could face a suspension of your driver's license and jail time if convicted. If you are convicted, you will also have a criminal record that can make it challenging to maintain your employment, find housing, and have a negative impact on your personal life. The sooner you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, the better.What is Considered a Hit and Run Accident Under North Carolina Law?
N.C.G.S. § 20-166 outlines the definition of a hit-and-run accident. The term' hit and run' describes the crime of leaving the scene of a car, bicycle, or pedestrian accident before the police arrive. In North Carolina, drivers who know or should have reasonably known that they were involved in a car accident have a legal responsibility to remain at the accident scene and wait for law enforcement officials to arrive.
Specifically, drivers must immediately stop their vehicle at the accident scene and remain with the car until police complete the investigation or permit the driver to leave the scene. Additionally, while at the accident scene, drivers must exchange personal information with others involved in the accident and ensure that anyone who suffered an injury receives necessary medical care.Exceptions to the North Carolina's Hit and Run Law
There are a few exceptions to the general rule. For example, you may leave the scene of an accident or remove your vehicle from the accident scene if doing so is necessary to:
- Call the police
- Receive medical attention, or
- Prevent you and others from suffering additional injuries
Suppose you leave the accident scene to get medical attention, alert the police, or avoid additional injury. In that case, you will still be required to return to the location within a reasonable amount of time. Failure to return to the scene can result in criminal charges. Suppose you believe you have been wrongfully charged with a hit-and-run accident because you qualify under one of the exceptions to the general rule. In that case, you must discuss your case with an attorney who can begin developing your legal defense strategy.Misdemeanor and Felony Hit and Run Charges
Generally, hit-and-run accidents are charged as class 1 misdemeanor offensive when the damage to the property and the type of injury or injuries are minor. Suppose the accident caused property damage, and you left the accident scene. In that case, you will probably face misdemeanor hit-and-run charges. The penalties for a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge include up to 120 days in jail and criminal fines.
Felony hit-and-run charges are more severe and occur when the accident causes serious bodily injury or death. When a hit-and-run accident causes a damage, it is classified as a class H felony that is punishable by 4 to 25 months in jail, suspension of your driver's license, and expensive fines.
When a hit-and-run accident causes serious bodily injury or death, it will be classified as a class felony punishable by expensive fines, suspension of your driver's license, and 10 to 41 months in jail. A serious bodily injury includes an injury that created a substantial risk of death, caused permanent disfigurement or pain, or resulted in extended hospitalization.Legal Defenses to Hit and Run Charges in North Carolina
Certain legal defenses can be helpful when you are defending against hit-and-run charges. The specific types of defenses you should use depend on multiple factors, but some of the most common include the following:
- You did not know you were involved in an accident
- You did not know that the accident caused damage or injury
- You have been falsely accused
- You left the scene temporarily to get help
- You have been mistakenly identified
If you were convicted of a hit-and-run charge, you will face jail time and substantial criminal fines and may lose your driving privileges. In other words, a hit-and-run conviction can change your life forever. Once you have completed a criminal sentence, you will still have the hardship of living with a criminal record which can negatively affect many aspects of your life, including qualifying for loans, renting or buying a vehicle, or getting a job. If you have been charged with a crime in North Carolina, contact the skilled criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, P.L.L.C., to schedule a free case evaluation.