If you have been charged with leaving the scene of an accident in Massachusetts, the level of criminal liability you face depends entirely on the facts surrounding your case. Also known as “hit and run,” this crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances. Regardless of the severity of your charges, you will be best served by acting deliberately and immediately contacting a criminal defense lawyer.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident MA
Under Massachusetts law, there are three crimes related to leaving a car accident. They include:
- Leaving the scene of property damage
- Leaving the scene of personal injury not resulting in death
- Leaving the scene after causing death
Leaving the scene of property damage is the least severe of the three charges. A misdemeanor, this crime is charged when a driver collides with and damages another vehicle or property but fails to stop and give their name, residence, and register number.
Leaving the scene of personal injury not resulting in death is also a misdemeanor. This charge is appropriate when a driver is involved in a crash that injures but does not kill the other driver yet leaves the scene without leaving the appropriate identifying information. This charge has a minimum jail term of six months and a maximum of two years.
Leaving the scene after causing death is the most serious of the three charges. A felony, leaving the scene where a death occurred without leaving the appropriate identifying information can result in a prison sentence of between 2.5 and 10 years.
What to Do When You’re Facing Hit and Run Charges
Regardless of the specific charge, you are facing, there are four steps you should follow after being charged with a hit and run in MA.
Contact a Lawyer
First and foremost, your best bet for protecting yourself and achieving a positive outcome in your case is by hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney will be able to provide you with insight into how these cases typically proceed as well as guide you through the process. An attorney may also be able to appear on your behalf at court proceedings; freeing you up to go about your life. The State of Massachusetts has tremendous resources that can be leveraged against you in your case; the best way to even the playing field is by hiring counsel experienced with prevailing in these types of cases.
When it comes to discussing the charges against you with law enforcement, you have the right to remain silent. And when you’ve been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, this is a right that you should take advantage of. Law enforcement will always use your words against you, and things you say after your arrest can be taken out of context. There’s no benefit to speaking with law enforcement about your arrest and staying silent is in your best interest.
Be Polite with Law Enforcement
Staying silent doesn’t mean you should be hostile with the police, however. While you can’t be forced to discuss your case, it is in your best interest to keep your interactions with law enforcement civil. In many cases, your arresting officer will have a hand in what charges are filed against you, if any. Directing hostility towards the officer that has a say in the charges you face won’t be helpful to your case.
Don’t Discuss Your Case
During the course of the proceedings against you, don’t discuss your case with anyone other than your lawyer. Anything you discuss with your attorney is privileged and cannot be used against you at trial. The same cannot be said for anything you say to anyone else. Your friends and family can be compelled to testify against you, and anything you say to them can be brought up in court. Avoid the possibility of the prosecutor twisting your own words against you by staying tight-lipped about your case.
An arrest for leaving the scene of an accident can be overwhelming, but following these steps will give you the best chance of avoiding a conviction.