Leaving the Scene of an Accident (Hit and Run) in NY

by Adam Rosenblum

If you are involved in a car accident in New York, the law requires you to stop your vehicle and share your insurance information with the other driver involved in the collision before you can leave the scene. If you leave the scene of the incident (i.e. “hit and run”), you could face very serious consequences.

Background Information

In New York, a “hit and run” is called “leaving the scene of an incident without reporting.”

Getting a hit and run ticket in NY can end up costing you a great deal. If you are convicted of leaving the scene (depending on the circumstances), you can be fined up to $250 and put behind bars for 15 days!

Aside from that, 3 points will be added onto your driving record and your car insurance could go through the roof.

If that is not bad enough, CDL drivers have it much worse. On top of the fines and points, if you are a commercial driver’s license holder and are caught violating VTL 600-1a, your license will be revoked for an entire year.

This means you will lose ALL of your driving privileges for a year. If you are a CDL driver, you know that this would mean losing your ability to work as well. Ultimately, a conviction for hit and run in NY has the potential to truly devastate a CDL driver because it takes away what he or she needs to earn a living.

It is worth noting that a “revocation” is even more serious than a “suspension” because:

  • A mere “suspension” means your license is automatically reinstated after the term of suspension is finished, but this is not the case with a “revocation”
  • With a “revocation,” you will have to reapply for your license and repay all fees
  • With a “revocation,” you will not have a right of reinstatement (i.e. if the DMV deems it appropriate, they could deny you a license when you try to reapply for one)

Lastly, if you try to drive when your license is revoked or suspended, you could face a subsequent charge of Aggravated Unlicensed Operation (AUO), which is a crime in New York.

For information concerning a hit and run that results in personal injuries (VTL 600-2a), please see that portion of the statute below. A conviction for that offense will result in a fine of up to $500 and up to 3 months in jail. Again, if you are a CDL driver, all of the penalties discussed above apply (including the 1 year license revocation).

CLICK

Official Text of the “Hit and Run” Statute

New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) 600-1a. Leaving Scene of an Incident Without Reporting.

1. Property Damage.

a. Any person operating a motor vehicle who, knowing or  having cause to know that damage has been caused to the real property or to the personal property, not including animals, of another, due to an incident involving  the  motor  vehicle  operated  by  such  person shall, before leaving the place where the damage occurred, stop, exhibit  his  or  her license and insurance identification card for such vehicle, when such card is required pursuant to articles six and eight of this chapter, and give his or her name, residence, including street and number, insurance carrier and insurance identification information including but not limited to the number and effective dates of said individual’s insurance policy, and license number to the party sustaining the  damage, or in case the person sustaining the damage is not present at the place where the damage occurred then he or she shall report the same as soon as physically able to the nearest police station, or judicial officer.

b. It shall be the duty of any member of a law enforcement agency who is at the scene of the accident to request the said operator or operators of the motor vehicles, when physically capable of doing so, to exchange the information required hereinabove and such member of a law enforcement agency shall assist such operator or operators in making such exchange of information in a reasonable and harmonious manner. A violation of the provisions of paragraph a of this subdivision shall constitute a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of up to two hundred fifty dollars or a sentence of imprisonment for up to fifteen days or both such fine and imprisonment.

2. Personal Injury.

a. Any person operating a motor vehicle who, knowing or having cause to know that personal injury has been caused to another person, due to an incident involving the motor vehicle operated by such person shall, before leaving the place where the said personal injury occurred, stop, exhibit his or her license and insurance identification card for such vehicle, when such card is required pursuant to articles six and eight of this chapter, and give his or her name, residence, including street and street number, insurance carrier and  insurance  identification  information including but not limited to the number and effective dates of said individual’s insurance policy and license number, to the injured party, if practical, and also to a police officer, or in the event that no police officer is in  the vicinity of the place of said injury, then, he or she shall report said incident as soon as physically able  to  the  nearest  police  station  or  judicial officer.

b. It shall be the duty of any member of a law enforcement agency who is at the scene of the accident to request the said operator or operators of the motor vehicles, when physically capable of doing so, to exchange the information required hereinabove and such member of a law enforcement agency shall assist such operator or operators in making such exchange of information in a reasonable and harmonious manner.

c. A violation of the provisions of paragraph a of this subdivision resulting solely from the failure of an operator to exhibit his or her license and insurance identification card for the vehicle or exchange the information required in such paragraph shall constitute a class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than two hundred fifty nor more than five hundred dollars in addition to any other penalties provided by law. Any subsequent such violation shall constitute a class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than five hundred nor more than one thousand dollars in addition to any other penalties provided by law. Any violation of the provisions of paragraph a of this subdivision, other than for the mere failure of an operator to exhibit his or her license and insurance identification card for such vehicle or exchange the information required in such paragraph, shall constitute a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars in addition to any other penalties provided by law. Any such violation committed by a person after such person has previously been convicted of such a violation hall constitute a class E felony, punishable by a fine of not less than one thousand nor more than two thousand five hundred dollars in addition to any other penalties provided by law. Any violation of the provisions of paragraph a of this subdivision, other than for the mere failure of an operator to exhibit his or her license and insurance identification card for such vehicle or exchange the information required in such paragraph, where the personal injury involved (i) results in serious physical injury, as defined in section 10.00 of the penal law, shall constitute a class E felony, punishable by a fine of not less than one thousand nor more than five thousand dollars in addition to any other penalties provided by law, or (ii) results in death shall constitute a class D felony punishable by a fine of not less than two thousand nor more than five thousand dollars in  addition to any other penalties provided by law.

 

Common Defenses to Hit and Run

Although it might seem quite tough to imagine mounting a defense to a hit and run charge, that is where we come in. Contrary to popular belief, there actually are several valid defenses against a charge for violating VTL 600-1a.

First, “mistake of fact” is usually a great defense that will give you a fighting chance at getting your charge lowered. If you honestly did not know that you struck another vehicle (e.g. when you were backing out of a parking space, etc.) or you truly believed there was no damage and simply assumed you were being “waved by” by the vehicle you struck, then these facts would allow you to present a mistake of fact defense. Remember, this does not work every time and you may not get your ticket dismissed, but it is absolutely worth using (as long as it is true for your individual case).

Second, it is important to realize that any statement that you make to an officer that he coerces out of you in what the law calls a “custodial interrogation”—which in some cases could happen right on the side of the road—can be suppressed as a violation of your Miranda rights. If this applies to your specific case and we believe it crucial, we will raise this defense to help get those confessions or statements excluded and prevent them from being used against you in court.

We leave no stone unturned and will raise every quality defense that your individual case requires in order to get you the results you are looking for.

Case Law Analysis

Although the New York case law regarding VTL 600-1a is a complicated thicket of thorns, a common thread appears to run through the overwhelming majority of them: verbal evidence from the driver can make or break the prosecution’s case (see People v. Briggs, 38 NY 2d 319; People v. Lewis, 162 AD 2d 760).

The case law indicates that admitting to the officer that you hit a car and ran off spells disaster for you. It might seem obvious to keep quite and not make any admissions. However, when you are nervous and the officer asks you what happened, people will blurt things out like “I didn’t mean to hit him!” more often then you might think.

These types of admissions cannot be suppressed because their considered excited utterances and exceptions to the hearsay rule (see People v. Edwards, 47 NY 2d 493). Moreover, they are made when a person is not officially being interrogated or in custody, so Miranda does not apply. Therefore, these admissions are legally used against drivers to help convict them. What is the takeaway? Be careful! Even if you are nervous, do not say anything that could even imply that you were responsible.

Lastly, the most amazing precedent that is still on the books in NY comes from People v. Hager, 124 Misc. 2d 123. In this case, the court was forced to decide whether a driver must have intent in order to be convicted of leaving the scene of an accident.

Amazingly, the court ruled that because VTL 600-1a and VTL 600-2a are crimes, an intent component is required to convict. Consequently, because facts in the record indicated that the driver in Hager was mentally disturbed at the time of fleeing the scene and that he could not recall what truly transpired, his conviction was upended and he got a new trial.

It is unclear how other courts would rule on this, but two things are for sure: 1) a reputable NY court determined that you must intend to flee the scene in order to be convicted and 2) being mentally disturbed—even for a short period of time—might be enough to get your hit and run ticket dismissed on appeal.

Who Should You Contact?

If you have received a traffic ticket for leaving the scene of an accident in New York (VTL 600-1a), you require expert and aggressive legal defense. The Rosenblum Law Firm has a successful track record of fighting “hit and run” cases and getting you the results you want. Call the Rosenblum Law Firm today at 888-883-5529.