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LEAVING SCENE OF ACCIDENT INVOLVING SERIOUS INJURY IN NJ – NJSA 2C:12-1.1

Leaving the scene of an accident involving serious injury as outlined in NJSA 2C:12-1.1 is a third-degree crime that can carry severe penalties. If you or a loved one has been charged with such an offense, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced motor vehicle and criminal defense attorney. Our office provides personalized and effective representation that begins with a free, no-obligation initial consultation. 

Some motor vehicle accidents invariably include serious injury. Those involved may feel an overwhelming urge to flee the scene because of fear or panic. It’s important to realize, however, that doing so only compounds the seriousness of the situation. 

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT (N.J.S.A. 39:4-129) AND LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT INVOLVING SERIOUS INJURY IN NEW JERSEY (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1) 

While New Jersey has a motor vehicle offense identified as N.J.S.A. 39:4-129 that pertains to leaving the scene of an accident, the criminal charge as outlined in N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1 is a much more serious offense.  

The motor vehicle offense N.J.S.A. 39:4-129 stipulates that a driver who is involved in an accident with an attended vehicle or other property “shall immediately stop . . . at the scene or as close . . . as possible” to give the other driver or property owner required name, address, and phone number in addition to showing license and registration. 

In the event that the other vehicle is unattended, the driver is required to leave contact information in a conspicuous place. Damaging personal property that does not have an immediately identifiable owner necessitates police notification as well as property owner contact as soon as that person is identified. 

In the event of an accident that results in serious bodily injury, the driver is required by law to remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives. 

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1, “serious bodily injury means an injury which creates substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of any bodily member or organ.” 

“KNOWINGLY” LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT INVOLVING SERIOUS INJURY 

Adding the term “knowingly” to the above charge is a critical element in the case. N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1 defines it as follows: 

A motor vehicle operator who knows that he is involved in an accident and knowingly leaves the scene of that accident . . . shall be guilty of a crime. . . if the accident results in serious bodily injury to another person. 

There are five key elements involved in the successful prosecution of a driver who knowingly leaves the scene of an accident involving serious injury. 

The defendant: 

  1. operated the motor vehicle. 
  2. was involved in an accident while operating said vehicle. 
  3. knew he or she was involved in an accident. 
  4. knowingly left the scene of the accident as defined by N.J.S.A. 39:4-129. 
  5. The accident resulted in serious bodily injury to another person. 

PENALTIES IF FOUND GUILTY OF VIOLATING N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1 

Violating N.J.S.A. 39:4-129 is a motor vehicle offense. By contrast, N.J.S.A 2C:12-1.1 is a criminal offense, designated as a third-degree felony and tried at the Superior Court level. 

THE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATING N.J.S.A. 39:4-129: 

  • Fines: 1st offense:  $200 – $400; 2nd offense:  $400 – $600 
  • Jail:  Drivers may be required to serve a maximum of 30 days in jail. 
  • Points:  New Jersey assigns 2 points for leaving the scene of an accident without injuries. 
  • Surcharge: A New Jersey driver who accumulate six points is imposed a surcharge of $450, and an additional $75 for each point over six. 
  • License Suspension:  A mandatory and maximum suspension of up to 30 days is imposed. 

THE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATING N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1:  

In addition to being charged with the above traffic offense, the driver also faces penalties for a criminal offense. 

  • Fines:  In addition to the traffic violation fines of between $2,500 and $4,000, the criminal offense carries a maximum fine of $15,000. 
  • Jail:  The traffic violation conviction carries a maximum of a 180-day sentence plus the third degree indictable offense penalty of three to five years in prison. 
  • Points:  New Jersey assigns 8 points for violating N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1. 
  • Surcharge:  The minimum one can expect to pay is $600 in addition to fines. 
  • License Suspension: one-year suspension 

A person who is convicted of leaving the scene of an accident involving serious injury should also expect a significant increase in insurance rates. 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TRAFFIC VIOLATION AND A CRIMINAL CHARGE IN NEW JERSEY 

Revisiting the term “knowingly” is the main point that divides each situation. 

The traffic law does not presume that the driver knew it was illegal to leave the scene. 

Under the criminal offense, however, it is presumed that the driver knew he or she should remain at the scene but made the conscious choice to flee. 

POSSIBLE DEFENSE FOR LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT INVOLVING SERIOUS INJURY 

An experienced attorney may be able to disprove elements of the State’s case, such as the contention that the defendant knew the accident involved serious injury.  

Skilled defense counsel might also be successful in arguing that the client did attempt to leave contact information but was unable to do so.  

In certain situations, the accused’s lawyer may be able to negotiate a lesser charge with the prosecution, which would significantly decrease the penalties. 

SEEK THE ADVICE OF COUNSEL 

If you or a loved one was involved in a serious injury accident in which you left the scene, it is imperative to seek the advice of experienced counsel.  

A skilled traffic ticket and criminal defense attorney will be able to evaluate the situation and determine the most effective course of action.  

Contact the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio by phone at 732-334-7468 or by completing the online form for a free, no-obligation initial consultation.  

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