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Is Hit and Run a Felony? Understanding Minnesota’s Leaving the Scene of an Accident Laws

In Minnesota, the driver of any motor vehicle involved in an accident is legally obligated to stop their vehicle as soon as possible and return to the accident scene. If you have been charged with a hit and run offense, contact criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis, Gerald Miller, to get the answers to your questions and help you navigate your case.

At the accident scene, the driver must supply the following information to a police officer as well as any other driver involved in the accident:

  1. Name;
  2. Address;
  3. Date of birth; and
  4. Registration plate number of the vehicle being driven.

If the driver collides with and damages any unattended vehicle the driver must:

  1. Reasonably attempt to locate the other driver; or
  2. Notify the police; or
  3. Leave contact information for the other owner.

Failure to return to the scene of an accident or report the accident may result in a hit and run offense.

Are There Any Defenses to a Hit and Run Charge?

Defending a hit and run case can be very difficult for a number of reasons. However, there are a limited number of defenses an experienced attorney like Gerald Miller PA can use.

You can attempt to introduce reasonable doubt about whether you in fact committed the hit and run. This defense is most applicable when the police do not have a license plate number or any general information putting you at the scene.

However, if the police can place you at the scene you can attempt to prove that the accident was not your fault. While this may not be advantageous to help you avoid a fleeing the scene of an accident charge, it can help you avoid other, more serious charges.

 

Hit and Run Consequences

In Minnesota, a hit and run charge can be a misdemeanor hit, gross misdemeanor, or felony hit depending on the details surrounding the offense.

A misdemeanor hit offense is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1000 fine.

A hit and run accident causing substantial bodily harm is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and/or $3000 in fines. Substantial bodily harm is an injury which causes a temporary but serious disfigurement or fracture.

A hit and run accident causing great bodily harm is a felony hit punishable by up to two years in prison and/or $4000 in fines. Great bodily harm is an injury which creates a high chance of death or permanent disfigurement.

Additionally, a driver may be charged with a felony hit if they are involved in an accident that results in the death of an individual. A conviction will carry a sentence of up to three years in prison and/or $5000 in fines.

 

Hit and Run Driver’s License Sanctions

Failure to report any accident in accordance with the Minnesota statute can lead to a suspension of your driver’s license.

 

An infographic illustrates the different potential penalties for hit and run offenses, ranging from fines and license suspension for minor incidents to prison time for those resulting in serious injuries or fatalities. The graphic emphasizes the importance of remaining at the scene, providing reasonable assistance, and exchanging information with other parties involved in the accident.

 

Understanding Minnesota’s Hit and Run Laws: A Deeper Dive

The Legal Duty to Stop and Report

Minnesota law is clear: if you’re involved in an accident, you must stop immediately. This isn’t just a suggestion; it’s a legal obligation under Minnesota Statute 169.09. Failing to do so can have serious consequences, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies, depending on the severity of the accident and whether anyone was injured.

When is Leaving the Scene a Crime?

Hit and run isn’t just about fleeing the scene of a car accident. It also includes failing to provide your information to the other driver or the police. Even if you leave a note with your contact information, it may not be enough to avoid a charge if you didn’t stop and exchange information directly.

The Importance of Immediate Action

The moments after an accident are crucial. The sooner you report the incident and cooperate with authorities, the better your chances of avoiding severe penalties. If you’re unsure of what to do, seek legal advice immediately. An experienced attorney can guide you through the process and protect your rights.

 

Defending Against Hit and Run Charges: Is It Possible?

Building a Strong Defense

While hit and run cases can be challenging, they’re not impossible to defend for a hit and run driver. Your attorney may explore several strategies, such as:

  • Challenging the evidence: Were you actually involved in the accident? Is there enough evidence to prove you fled the scene?
  • Proving lack of knowledge: Were you aware that an accident occurred? Could you have reasonably known that someone was injured?
  • Arguing for necessity: Did you leave the scene to seek medical help for yourself or someone else?

 

The Consequences of a Hit and Run Conviction

Beyond Criminal Charges

A hit and run conviction can have far-reaching consequences. In addition to fines and jail time, you could face:

  • License suspension or revocation: Your driving privileges could be significantly impacted.
  • Increased insurance rates: Your insurance premiums could skyrocket, making it more expensive to drive.
  • Civil liability: You could be sued by the other party for property damage, medical expenses, and more.

 

A defense attorney explains the complexities of hit-and-run laws to a client, differentiating between misdemeanor hit and run charges (often involving only property damage) and felony hit and run charges (typically involving serious bodily injury or death).

 

Why You Need an Experienced Attorney

Protecting Your Rights and Future

A hit and run charge is a serious matter. Don’t face it alone. An experienced attorney can help you understand the charges against you, build a strong defense, and fight for the best possible outcome. Don’t risk your future; get the legal help you need.

If you’ve been charged with a hit and run in Minnesota, contact Gerald Miller, P.A. today for a free consultation. With over 35 years of experience, we can help you navigate the complexities of the law and protect your rights.

 

Understanding the Nuances of Minnesota’s Hit and Run Laws

What Constitutes “Leaving the Scene?”

Minnesota law defines “leaving the scene” more broadly than simply driving away. It encompasses any failure to fulfill your duties after an accident, such as:

  • Failing to stop: Even a brief pause might not suffice if you don’t genuinely stop and assess the situation.
  • Not exchanging information: This includes your name, contact details, insurance, and vehicle information.
  • If the accident involves only property damage, you are still required to exchange information with the other party.
  • Leaving before police arrive: If an officer is summoned, remaining at the scene is mandatory.
  • Failing to render aid: If someone is injured, you have a duty to help to the best of your ability.

The Role of Intent in Hit and Run Cases

Prosecutors must prove not only that you left the scene but that you did so intentionally. This means:

  • Knowing an accident occurred: If you genuinely weren’t aware of a collision, it’s a potential defense.
  • Intending to avoid responsibility: This is where factors like your behavior after the accident become crucial. If someone is injured, you are legally required to provide reasonable assistance to the victim.

Hit and Run vs. Failure to Report

While often used interchangeably, these are distinct offenses. Hit and run focuses on leaving the scene, while failure to report deals with not notifying the police within a specified timeframe (usually 30 days in Minnesota).

 

Two cars collide at an intersection, leaving one driver injured. The other driver contemplates leaving the scene but ultimately decides to stay and exchange information, aware of the potential legal consequences of a hit and run.

 

The Impact of Hit and Run on Your Life

Financial Repercussions

Beyond the immediate fines and legal fees, a hit and run conviction can be financially devastating:

  • Higher insurance rates: Even if your insurer doesn’t drop you, expect a substantial rate hike.
  • Restitution: You might be ordered to reimburse the victim for damages, medical bills, or lost wages.
  • Civil lawsuits: Victims often seek additional compensation through civil court, leading to more expenses.

Social and Emotional Consequences

Hit and run carries a stigma. It can damage your reputation, strain relationships, and lead to feelings of guilt or shame. Seeking professional help to cope with these challenges is crucial for moving forward.

The Importance of Legal Representation

Navigating the legal aftermath of a hit and run can be overwhelming. An experienced attorney can:

  • Investigate the facts: Were there witnesses? Is the evidence against you solid?
  • Negotiate with prosecutors: Aim for reduced charges or alternative sentencing options.
  • Protect your rights: Ensure you’re treated fairly throughout the legal process.
  • Advocate for your best interests: Whether it’s minimizing penalties or seeking alternative resolutions.

Don’t face a hit and run charge alone. The team at Gerald Miller, P.A. is here to help you every step of the way. Contact us today for a free consultation and let us fight for your rights.

Should I Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Minneapolis?

If you are being prosecuted for a hit and run charge having an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis is critical. Gerald Miller PA has over 35 years’ experience helping people obtain the best possible results for any traffic violation. Contact us today at 612-341-9080 for a free consultation.

 

A police officer questions a driver involved in a hit-and-run accident, emphasizing the serious consequences of fleeing the scene, which could result in criminal charges, jail time, or prison.

 

 

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