In New Jersey, there are a lot of ways to commit a serious traffic violation. Driving faster than the posted speed limit, tailgating, passing a stopped school bus, improper passing, and driving while intoxicated are all offenses that can result in fines and points on your driver’s license in New Jersey.
One often-overlooked violation is leaving the scene of a car accident, NJSA 39:4-129. If you are involved in a collision or another type of car accident, you are required by law to remain at the scene of any accident where property damage, injuries, or death occurred until you have exchanged your identifying information with any other parties involved in the accident and if applicable, the police officer attending to the collision. If injury, death, or more than $500 worth of property damaged occurred as a result of the accident, an official police report must be filed. If a police report is not filed, the accident must be reported to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. Note that leaving the scene of an accident is a much more serious crime than Failure to Report an Accident (NJSA 39:4-130) which only carries a fine.
Driver’s Responsibilities After a New Jersey Accident
As a driver involved in a car accident, you are legally required to come to a complete stop as close to the scene of the accident as possible. You are also required to identify yourself to all other parties involved in the accident and the police officer attending to the scene. If there are no other parties present at the scene, you must report the accident to the nearest local law enforcement office, whether that is a municipal, county, or state law enforcement office or leave a conspicuous note with your name and contact information on the vehicle or other property damaged. Claiming that you had no knowledge of the damage caused by the accident is not a valid defense as long as you are aware you were in an accident. If the accident resulted in injury, death, or property damage worth $250 or more, it is presumed that you are aware of your accident. If the car was a rental, you are subject to the penalties for leaving the scene of the accident, not the car’s owner.
On a moral level, you might also feel a responsibility to ensure the well being of all other individuals involved in the accident. If anybody is in need of immediate medical attention, call 911 to have emergency medical services sent to the scene. By doing this, you could save a life or prevent a serious injury from becoming worse.
Consequences of Leaving the Scene of a Crash
You could face criminal penalties pursuant to New Jersey law for leaving the scene of a car accident. These penalties include fines, driver’s license suspension, and even jail time.
For leaving the scene of an accident where injury or death occurred, an individual can face fines ranging from $2,500 to $5,000. He or she may also be imprisoned for up to 180 days, but only if the injury or death occurred to a party other than the guilty driver.
Individuals who leave the scene of an accident where an injury occurred can also face license suspensions of up to one year for a first-time offense. For a second or subsequent offense, an individual can face a lifetime driver’s license suspension.
Leaving the scene of an accident where serious bodily injury occurred is a 3rd degree crime in New Jersey. The law defines serious bodily injury as any injury that results in permanent disfigurement, protracted loss or impairment of function or movement of any bodily organ or member, or substantial risk of death. Drivers convicted of this crime can face prison sentences of up to five years.
When an accident only results in vehicle damage, the penalties an individual faces for leaving the scene are lower. He or she can face fines ranging from $200 to $400 and up to one month in jail for a first-time offense. In addition to these penalties, an individual faces a driver’s license suspension of up to six months.
For a second or subsequent offense of this type, an individual can face penalties that include a fine of $400 to $600 and a jail sentence of one to three months. An individual found guilty of this offense may also have his or her driver’s license suspended for up to one year.
New Jersey Traffic Violation Attorney
If you are issued a ticket for any type of traffic violation, whether it is a seemingly minor violation like speeding or a serious offense like driving while intoxicated (DWI), it is important that you work with an experienced traffic violation attorney to understand all of your rights and possible legal options. I am an experienced traffic violation attorney who can answer your questions and advise you about how to proceed with your traffic charge. For legal advice and representation in Freehold and the surrounding areas, contact me at the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC.