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Matthew Radefeld & Dan Juengel
Matthew A. Radefeld and Daniel A. Juengel

Leaving the scene of an accident can result in a felony charge

On Behalf of | Dec 14, 2023 | Criminal Law |

Most everyone knows that leaving the scene of an accident is wrong. It’s also illegal. Nonetheless, many people still make the mistake of fleeing in the wake of a collision.   

Sometimes, they don’t think there was any damage – especially if they hit a parked car when no one was around. Sometimes, people simply panic and drive away. Yet, leaving an accident scene – whether a driver has caused the collision in question or not – is a criminal offense both in Missouri and Illinois.  

Missouri law 

Under the law, leaving the scene is a crime if the collision caused “injury or death or damage to property of another person” and they had “knowledge of such accident.” A driver is required to provide identification and vehicle information to the other party(ies) involved or to law enforcement. 

The offense classification for fleeing the scene depends on how much damage to property was done and if the accident caused injury to someone else. If the damage exceeds $1,000 or someone was injured, it’s a Class E felony. If those injuries were fatal, it’s a Class D felony. Note that this fleeing charge is levied in addition to any charges directly related to the crash – such as DUI or involuntary manslaughter. 

Illinois law 

A person isn’t going to get off any easier if they leave the scene in Illinois. It can be a Class 4 felony if no one is injured. It’s a Class 2 felony if there are injuries and Class 1 if another person dies. Further, anyone who leaves the scene is automatically required to undergo drug and alcohol testing when they’re apprehended. Illinois law states that if someone flees initially, they must return to the scene “as soon as possible but in no case later than one-half hour after such motor vehicle crash.” Note that simply moving your vehicle to a safe place (for example, onto the shoulder) doesn’t count as leaving the scene. 

Why else staying at the scene can benefit you 

You can’t know for certain whether anyone was injured and how seriously if you don’t stop when a crash occurs. Further, by leaving the scene, you’re giving up the opportunity to get evidence that could support your lack of fault (such as taking photos, talking to the other driver, getting eyewitness names and calling the police). Another driver could hold you responsible for damage or injuries you didn’t cause if you leave the scene of a wreck.

If you have already been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, it’s crucial to take the matter seriously. Getting legal guidance can help you to protect your rights.