Picture of an accident taken by Pargon
Leaving the scene of an accident, or more commonly, “hit and run” is unfortunately an all too common motor vehicle crime. In Massachusetts it is a crime to leave an accident where you knowingly collided with or caused injury to any other vehicle or property, unless you have stopped and provided your name, address, and register number. By the language of the statute, this law is left wide open to interpretation as to what is a collision or injury, what does knowingly mean, and what information will be sufficient if you do stop. Knowing the basics of this law will keep you from ever being liable. Being charged with OUI in connection with hit and run makes a case much more complicated.
First of all, to be convicted of a hit and run there must be some sort of collision. In most circumstances this part will be obvious if you are actually moving in your car and hit another car or pedestrian. But what if your car is at rest? In that case, the courts have ruled that you are not within the group of people that this law was meant to include, because you had no actual part in the collision. Next to consider is the term “knowingly.” This word is used a lot in criminal law and can mean different things. Pertaining to a hit and run, knowingly means both that you are aware you are leaving the accident and that you are aware that you did not give any of the requisite information before doing so. It is not required that you know there was damage, but only that there was a collision.
If you’re involved in a collision, stopping alone is not enough. Be sure to give all information possible so that the other party can contact you. This duty can also be extended to passengers of the vehicle. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Courtfound that when the operator of a car was a chauffeur, the passenger had sufficient control in telling the driver to leave and was therefore responsible for the hit and run.
Though hit and run cases can be difficult for the Commonwealth to prove because of the actual operation requirement, courts will allow circumstantial evidence. This evidence can range from your knowledge of the event to your control of the keys at the time. If you do find yourself involved in a collision and there doesn’t appear to be any damage, it is best to cover yourself by stopping and providing your information.