Below, we discuss the differences in these two offenses and how we can help if you are facing criminal charges or a traffic violation. We offer a free consultation for our criminal defense clients and are available 24/7. We can capably assist you with traffic violations and/or criminal charges.
We serve clients throughout Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Ocean County, and all surrounding areas of New Jersey.
If you are facing charges for leaving the scene of an accident or failing to report an accident, contact us immediately by phone or online for your free consultation. We can discuss your legal options and what type of defense strategy could help protect your freedom.
What Is the Difference Between the Traffic Violation and Criminal Charge for Hit-and-Run?
New Jersey law includes a traffic violation and a criminal offense for leaving the scene of an accident.
Details about these laws and their differences are discussed below.
In New Jersey, motorists are required to report any motor vehicle accident that they are involved in that causes bodily injury, death, or property damage of more than $500.
Under the failure to report an accident NJ traffic law, the requirements are as follows:
- Render reasonable aid.
- Inform the local law enforcement agency in the quickest manner possible.
- Give your name and address to the other driver and police officer.
- Show your driver’s license and registration to the other driver and police officer.
- Forward a written report of the accident to the commission within 10 days of the accident unless a law enforcement officer
- provides the report.
- The written report must contain details about the accident, including the following:
- The cause of the accident
- Road, weather, and other conditions involved in the accident
- The people involved in the accident
- The vehicles involved in the accident
- If you are unable to make a report because you are injured, another occupant in your vehicle can make it.
In contrast, the criminal charge alleges that you knew you were supposed to stay at the scene of the accident but instead chose to flee.
You can be charged under the criminal New Jersey statute on leaving the scene of an accident if you:
- Knew you were involved in an accident.
- Did not stop at the scene of the accident and fulfill the legal requirements described above.
- Knowingly left the scene of the accident.
What Is the Penalty for Leaving the Scene of an Accident in NJ?
For the traffic violation, the penalty for leaving the scene of an accident in NJ varies depending on whether the accident involved property damage only or involved the injury or death of another person.
The potential penalty for leaving the scene of an accident in NJ for a first offense may include:
|Penalty||Property Damage Only Accident||Accident Involving Injury or Death|
|Fine||$200 – $400||$2,500 – $5,000|
|Jail Time||Up to 30 days in jail||Up to 180 days in jail|
|Driver’s license suspension||Six months||One year|
|Surcharge||$450 for first six points, additional $75
for each additional point
|At least $600|
|Points to driving record||2 points||8 points|
The criminal offense is considered a third-degree crime if the accident resulted in injury or death. This type of offense is punishable by three to five years’ incarceration in a state penitentiary and a fine up to $15,000.
This is in addition to the potential penalties for any other crimes you may have been charged with – such as assault by auto or DWI – or any potential civil awards you may have to pay out to the victim. You may also face much higher insurance premiums if you plead guilty to the offense of leaving the scene of an accident or failing to report an accident.
Defenses to Leaving the Scene of an Accident in New Jersey
Various defenses may be available to you, depending on the specific circumstances surrounding your case.
Here are some defenses that may be available:
- Lack of Knowledge
The criminal offense requires that you know that you were supposed to stop and exchange information but that you did not do so. If you were not aware of these requirements, you may have a defense to the criminal charges. However, the lack of knowledge of these required actions is not a valid defense in the traffic violation.If you did not know that you were involved in an accident or if you thought that the property damage was slight in nature, you could potentially raise this lack of knowledge as a defense.
- Refusal to Receive Information
In some situations, you may have tried to exchange your information and the other driver may have chosen to refuse it. This may be the case if the other driver did not have insurance, knew he or she was impaired by drugs or alcohol, or committed a traffic offense for which he or she does not want to be held accountable.If you tried to provide your information but the other driver refused to accept it, you may be able to raise this defense since you tried to fulfill your legal duties.
- Disorientation Following an Accident
The moments after a car accident can be disorienting. In the confusion of protecting your health and safety and seeking medical treatment, you may forget to exchange information or report the accident. If you suffered a head injury or other serious injury, your medical records and testimony of medical experts may be able to establish disorientation as a possible defense.
- You Were Not Driving the Vehicle Involved
In order for the prosecution to establish that you are guilty of the offense, they will need to show that you were actually driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. If the driver fled the scene and you were misidentified, you may raise this as a defense. Likewise, if you were a passenger in the accident and the driver did not stop or exchange information, this defense may apply.
- Impossibility or Impracticality
Another potential defense you may be able to raise is impossibility or impracticality. This type of defense may be available if it was impossible or impractical to stop, exchange information, or report the accident. You may be able to use this type of defense if you can clearly explain why you were unable to stop or exchange information with the other driver. For example, you may have been hurt or stopping in the middle of traffic may have posed risks to your health and safety.
How Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help You
If you are facing charges of leaving the scene of an accident, our New Jersey leaving the scene of accident attorneys are ready to evaluate the case against you and any potential defenses you may have. We can discuss the circumstances surrounding your case during a free consultation. This will give us the opportunity to evaluate possible legal defenses we can raise on your behalf.
All of the criminal defense lawyers at Clark & Noonan are former prosecutors, so we have insight into and experience with how the other side prepares their case and how to show you were not guilty.
When facing charges like leaving the scene of an accident, make sure to hire a New Jersey traffic offense lawyer who is just as committed as you are to preserving your freedom, financial stability, and driving privileges. We are ready to work tirelessly to seek a favorable outcome on your behalf.