Navigating The Charges After A Hit & Run With The Law Offices of Erik Nicholson.
If you are involved in a “Hit and Run,” you can be charged with the crime of Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver. This is a serious crime that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the details and circumstances of the offense.
If you are convicted, you face jail time, high fines and your license will be suspended. You will also be required to carry SR-22 auto insurance for a minimum of three years. If you were uninsured at the time of the accident, you may be required to pay restitution for any damage caused.
The Duties of a Driver
In order to avoid a Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver charge, you are required to fulfill certain duties if you are involved in a traffic collision.
If you are involved in a traffic accident or collision that causes any amount of property damage or physical injury you must:
- Stop at Once
Stop at the accident scene or as close as possible without needlessly blocking or endangering other traffic.
- Exchange Information
Give to the other driver, passengers in the vehicle or any injured pedestrian your:
- Name, address, driver license number, license plate number of your vehicle, and Your insurance information.
- Stay Put
If a driver is involved in an accident in which a person is killed or rendered unconscious, the driver is required to remain at the scene of the accident until a police officer arrives.
- Unattended Vehicles/Property/Animals
If you hit an unoccupied vehicle, try to find the owner. If you cannot find the owner, leave a note that identifies you as the person who hit the unattended vehicle and how to contact you. You are required by law to write your name and address on the note, and a brief description of what happened.
- If you damage property other than a motor vehicle, you must try to find the owner or someone in charge of the property to report the damage.
- If you hit and injure an animal, stop and immediately report the animal’s injuries to its owner. If you are unable to locate the owner, report the injuries to the nearest police agency.
- Report the Accident to DMV if required —
You must file an Oregon Traffic Accident and Insurance Report with DMV within 72 hours if any of the below occurs:
- Damage to the vehicle you were driving is over $1,500;
- Damage to any vehicle is over $1,500 and any vehicle is towed from the scene as a result of damages from this accident;
- Injury or death resulted from this accident; or
- Damages to any one person’s property other than a vehicle involved in this accident is over $1,500.
Penalties Upon Conviction
Depending on the circumstances of a Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver arrest, your charges will range from a Class A Misdemeanor up to a Class B Felony.
Auto accidents involving property damage
If you leave the scene of an accident that resulted in property damage, the charge you face is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and fines up to $6,250. You will also face a driver license suspension and must carry SR-22 insurance for a period of 3 years following the termination of your driver license suspension.
Auto accidents involving physical injury/serious physical injury
If you leave the scene of an accident that resulted in physical injury, the charge you face is a Class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines reaching $125,000. You will also face a driver license suspension and must carry SR-22 insurance for a period of 3 years following the termination of your suspension.
If you leave the scene of an accident that results in serious physical injury*, the charge you face is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $210,000. You will also face a driver license suspension and must carry SR-22 insurance for a period of 3 years following the termination of your suspension.
- Serious physical injury: “injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.” ORS 161.015(8).
Strategies to Avoid Conviction
There are numerous tactics we will use to reduce your penalties or avoid a conviction for Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver.
In certain cases Erik Nicholson can negotiate a deferred sentence. A deferred sentence gives you an opportunity to complete a series of requirements such as obeying all laws, performing community service and/or paying a fine within a set period of time. If you successfully complete all these requirements and stay out of trouble, the court may dismiss the charges. If, however, you do not complete the requirements the court will convict and sentence you accordingly.
In almost all Hit and Run cases, we will attempt to negotiate a money settlement with the victim of the crime. If successful, we can file a motion with the court to dismiss the criminal charge. Warning: Contacting the victim of a crime can be a violation of your release agreement and you can be charged with contempt of court. We can properly contact a victim and negotiate a civil compromise on your behalf.
Reduction to Violation
Depending on the facts of your case we may be able to negotiate a reduction of your criminal charge to a violation. Reduction to a violation helps you avoid criminal history and many of the harsh penalties that go along with a criminal conviction.
Every person charged of a crime has the right to a jury trial. At a jury trial the prosecutor must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. We will work to place doubt in the minds of the jurors and undercut the prosecution’s case. When you are found “not guilty” the charge can never be used against you.
Washington and Clackamas prosecutors are known for very harsh initial plea offers. Even on first time offenses, they will seek jail time and high fines and fees. Erik Nicholson has successfully negotiated significant reductions of penalties and fees in thousands of Washington County and Clackamas County cases. This includes avoiding jail altogether, and lowering fines and other penalties as much as possible.
Know your rights and options
Erik Nicholson has been serving Oregon as a criminal defense attorney for the last 14 years. With his experience and knowledge of Oregon laws, he will be able to help you understand your rights and what options you have when it comes to dealing with a hit and run case.