We’ve all seen countless action movies showing car chases. The villain or villains are chased by the good guys. Maybe it’s the cops giving chase, or even the other way round. If done well, it can be exciting, thrilling, funny or just plain frightening. People get hit or killed. Property is damaged left, right and center, all in the name of entertainment. In reality, real life is very different. Car chases certainly do occur, property does get damaged and people are hurt and killed, but fortunately not often. Any driver who damages property or hurts someone while driving can face very serious charges, especially if they copy what happens in the movie and don’t stop to report damage, attend to the injured and generally do what the law tells them they must do.
There isn’t really a law in any state in America specifically called a “hit and run” law. The term is certainly very commonly used to describe an accident in which a driver (or a motorcycle or even a bicycle rider) hits a person or property while in control of a vehicle but fails to stop, check out if anyone has been injured, let police or emergency medical services know, help in any way they can and exchange information that might be used in an insurance claim. Usually, the offense is known as “failure to stop after an accident’ or something like that.
The penalties for not stopping depend on the circumstances. In Alaska, statute AS 28.35.050 (Action of Operator Immediately After Accident) sets out what a driver (or rider) should do if involved in some kind of accident. The very least procedure is required if some kind of property damage but no-one is around to notify. The requirement under Alaska law is to stop, check for damage, search for whoever appears to own the property and if no-one is around at least leave a note of what happened and contact details.
Anyone who fails to stop after knowingly being involved in an accident could face a fine or imprisonment depending on what happened in the accident. If someone was seriously injured or killed and you don’t stop to give assistance, call for help, inform the police, etc., then this could lead to a felony charge. AS 28.35.060 sets out the penalties under Alaska law for this offense, which could result in up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. This is a serious criminal offense and a conviction could lead to a correspondingly serious penalty.
Legal defenses for a hit and run crime
There are few legal defenses available for a crime as given above. If for whatever reason of your own you have been involved in an accident and subsequently have been charged with a hit and run offense, you will certainly need a criminal defense attorney to help you. There are a limited number of reasons why failure to stop after an accident may be acceptable once the exact circumstances have been explored and presented in your defense. These are described below.
1. You didn’t know that you had been involved in an accident. To convict you of the offense of failing to stop after an accident, it must be proven beyond a doubt that you knew that you had hit something or someone and still failed to stop. The onus is on the side of the prosecutors to show that you must have known that you hit something or something was wrong, but you still didn’t stop. It is likely that your car will be carefully checked for forensic evidence and any witness statements and security camera footage may be used against you.
2. You knew that something had been hit or that an accident had occurred but you had compelling reasons for driving on. There may be life and death decisions that you took which meant that you felt compelled to keep driving, e.g. an emergency drive to a hospital.
3. Involuntary intoxication. This doesn’t mean that you were drunk, so weren’t capable of doing the right thing, but that you may have been drugged or taken some kind of drug given to you without your knowledge which affected your normal behavior. Note that this may be a possible defense, but is not commonly used.
A hit and run conviction could see you in prison for up to 10 years
It is not worth trying to defend yourself against an allegation of failing to stop after an accident. Few people are sympathetic to potential hit and run drivers and prosecutors will do what they can to get a conviction. Make sure that you use the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. In Anchorage, contact the Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan. He will fight to represent you in court. You can contact the Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan in Anchorage at 907-276-8008.