Jessica Sautter has a Bachelor’s Degree from Eastern Michigan University in Elementary Education with a Major in Reading and a Minor in Mathematics.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around auto insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Reviewed by Natasha McLachlan
Content Writer

UPDATED: Apr 29, 2020

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Leaving the scene of an accident involving another vehicle, property or a pedestrian is considered to be a hit and run. Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the outcome, a hit and run will be charged with a crime and may result in either misdemeanor charges or felony charges being brought against the perpetrator.

For example, if minor damage to property and personal injury occur as a result of the accident, it is likely that the offender will be charged with only a misdemeanor and may receive a fine and even a short jail sentence for their actions.

The matter can be taken up in civil court in order to receive compensation for injuries and/or damage to property. Other penalties such as license suspension may also occur.

If a fatality occurs or a driver is found to have been negligent or driving under the influence of alcohol or another substance, felony charges may be brought against the driver. Over and above a fine and license penalties, the driver may be sentenced to jail or even prison time. Civil damages may also be sought in this case.

Note that…

First-time offenders of a misdemeanor hit and run can receive jail sentences of up to 3 months whereas felony charges can result in extended prison sentences including fines and license penalties. Second or multiple offenders can expect much harsher sentences.

Leaving the scene of an accident is also considered to be different from fleeing the scene. If it is concluded that the perpetrator of the hit and run fled the scene, they may be brought up on felony charges.

What do police do in a hit and run?

If a hit and run accident has occurred, it is important to call the police immediately if a fatality or injuries have occurred or go to the nearest police station to report the accident as soon as possible. Even if the damages or injuries are minimal and there are no criteria to consider felony charges, a crime has still been committed and a report should be made so that the police can begin investigating the matter immediately.

How does investigation process work?

Unfortunately, most police departments will only investigate matters that could result in felony charges. Misdemeanors may be charged when the evidence provided is sufficient to lay a charge against the alleged perpetrator. Hit and run accidents where injuries have been sustained are often taken more seriously than those where only damage to property has occurred.

Do not leave the scene of the accident until the police arrive. They will either take a statement at the scene or at a later date when an injured party is fit to do so. The police will also collect other evidence and witness statements as well as video and camera footage of the accident.

Taking a note of license plate number…

It is very important to try and get the license plate number of the offender if at all possible before they flee the scene. Even a partial plate can lead to charges being laid and an arrest being made. Cases, where no license plate number is provided, will be filed and no further action may be taken until evidence of the identity of the driver or their vehicle can be provided.

Always remember to request a copy of the police report for insurance purposes as well as evidence that the accident and hit and run did occur in a civil matter.

How long does it take for police to investigate a hit and run?

It can take up to 10 days for the report to be processed and it is recommended to collect it from the relevant police station after this time has elapsed. Insurance companies may not provide coverage unless a case number and/or police report are provided.

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Can you go to jail?

Hit and Run Can Send You JailOnce the alleged perpetrator has been identified, a warrant for their arrest will be issued. When an arrest has occurred, the perpetrator will officially be charged with the crime and held in jail until bail is decided. They will then need to appear in court for both a criminal and civil trial if this route has been taken by the injured party.

If they do not appear in court, they will have jumped bail and the warrant for their arrest will be issued. If they fail to appear in civil court, a summons will be issued. Failure to appear after a summons has been issued may result in the case being decided without the defendant being present.