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As an experienced attorney who has handled many hit-and-run cases over the past ten years, I know that the bar to convict someone is very high.
A successful defense against such charges requires substantial proof and evidence to prove who the driver was beyond a reasonable doubt to ensure a not-guilty verdict.
Here is what you need to know about how to prove innocence in a hit-and-run.
- In the case of an auto accident, hit-and-runs are divided into two distinct levels: felony or misdemeanor.
- To solidify your innocence in a car accident, staying on the site of occurrence is critical.
- You must obtain testimonies from a few unbiased and truthful witnesses.
What Are Hit-and-Run Accidents?
Hit-and-run accidents are when a driver abandons an accident without offering support or exchanging details. It is known as "failure to stop and render aid." Depending on the crash's impact, hit-and-run can lead to either a misdemeanor or felony criminal charges .
Felony Hit-Run (Injury Related)
When a person is injured or killed in an accident, and the driver involved flees the scene, it is considered a felony hit-and-run. Understandably, law enforcement takes felony hit-and-run cases more seriously than when property damage is the only consequence.
Misdemeanor Hit-Run (Non-Injury Related)
When no one gets injured but only the vehicle involved is damaged, it's legally classified as a misdemeanor hit-and-run. Even though this type of offense may have serious consequences, they are usually less severe when compared to hit-and-run cases involving injury or death.
7 Steps to Prove Your Case in a Hit-and-Run
To prove your case, prosecutors must establish several critical elements of the crime.
These elements include the accident, the defendant was the other driver, the hit-and-run driver knew that an accident occurred, the other driver failed to stop, the vehicle owner willfully fled from the scene of an accident, and the injured person suffered damages.
However, you need other elements to prove your hit-and-run case.
1. Find Who Is At-Fault in the Hit-and-Run Accident
It is essential to accurately establish who is liable to take advantage of no-fault car insurance.
No-fault car insurance is a great way to ensure that those who were not responsible for a hit-and-run accident are financially reimbursed for their losses from their insurer. This emphasizes the importance of proving your innocence in any car crash; it's essential.
If you have been assigned fault in a hit-and-run accident, your insurance company may decide to reject the claim. You can contest this determination by submitting supportive documentation to them as evidence.
2. Get All the Details
Securing details of a hit-and-run accident is essential for obtaining financial compensation. After the collision, victims should contact emergency services swiftly and furnish them with as many identifying specifics as they can recall.
Uncovering specifics of the hit-and-run accident, including:
- What type and model was the other vehicle?
- What was the driver's license number?
- Were there any eyewitnesses?
- Who was the registered owner?
3. Collect the Evidence You Need
Even if you feel that the time for collecting evidence has passed, there is no need to panic immediately.
To establish your innocence in a hit-and-run car accident, visiting the site where the accident occurred s essential.
Capture as many photographs of that area as possible to secure all potential evidence; this includes positioning of the car involved, conditions on the road, and weather at the time it happened.
After a car accident, it is essential to document the accident scene with pictures. This evidence demonstrates the damage's severity and how the other driver left. If there are no witnesses present, photographs of your vehicle's damage could be enough to prove guilt in court.
4. Check the Surrounding Cameras
Security cameras are becoming increasingly prevalent, from police cruisers to traffic lights and even inside grocery stores.
When involved in a legal case, the videos captured by these devices can prove your innocence or support claims for fair compensation - whether you take video footage yourself or approach businesses with surveillance systems for assistance.
In most cases, they will be more than happy to provide any necessary recordings if asked politely.
5. Get the Police Report
As reliable evidence, the police report for your car accident can be incredibly useful in demonstrating that you were not responsible.
It includes crucial details about what happened and who was at fault from an unbiased witness, the drivers involved, and the law enforcement officer, as well as information on any traffic infractions issued or other elements related to the hit-and-run.
If the details are in your favor, they can be used to validate your innocence. Additionally, even if the police report appears unfavorable at first glance, you have a chance to amend it by providing evidence and telling your side of the story directly to an investigating officer.
"A police officer will attempt to locate you by collecting witness statements, reviewing nearby security footage, and patrolling the area around the scene of an accident for a broken down car or evidence of an accident."
- Adam Feldman, Criminal Defense Attorney
6. Speak To Eye Witnesses
In order to make sure your hit-and-run claim is successful, it's essential that you obtain the testimony of a few impartial and honest witnesses who can provide positive accounts with sharp visuals, quality auditory comprehension, and reliable recollection.
To make your claim stronger, you can start to gather evidence. Start by noting the contact details of any witnesses that saw what happened. Talk to anyone who witnessed it or even those residing in close proximity to where the crash took place - more confirmation makes it much easier for someone to be held accountable.
The more reliable sources you have testifying on behalf of your case, the greater the chance of finding out who was responsible.
7. Speak to a Car Accident Attorney
Having an attorney to protect your rights and interests during legal proceedings significantly improves the chances of a successful outcome.
Their expertise in law is invaluable, as they know how to effectively use evidence and arguments that bolster your case while minimizing any damage caused by unfavorable facts.
With their support, you can rest assured knowing that you have maximized your likelihood of receiving full compensation for any damages incurred or injustice suffered.
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Penalties for Criminal Hit-and-Run
As a result of a criminal hit-and-run, there are severe penalties imposed, including:
- Only Property Damage – Conviction of a second-degree misdemeanor may lead to up to sixty days in jail and/or a penalty of $500.
- Injury – Committing a third-degree felony may result in up to five years of confinement and a $5,000 fine.
- Serious Injury – A second-degree felony conviction can be met with a maximum of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Death – A first-degree felony conviction could result in up to thirty years of incarceration, with a minimum four-year prison sentence.
Do Police Investigate Minor Hit-and-Runs?
Yes, police do investigate minor hits and run such as property damage.
How Long Does a Hit-And-Run Investigation Take?
The amount of time a hit-and-run investigation takes is days, weeks, or even months, based on the circumstances.
Can a Hit-and-Run Be a Civil Case?
Yes, a hit-and-run can be a civil case. It is necessary to prove all aspects of either negligence or intentional misconduct and may also seek non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, which would go beyond what could be obtained through restitution from a criminal claim.
Get Compensation For Your Hit-Run Accident
Don't panic if you weren't able to take action immediately after the accident - it is still possible to demonstrate that you were not responsible.
Reach out to Schmidt & Clark's experienced car accident lawyers and find out how they can help prove your innocence in a car crash during a free consultation session. With their help, you'll be one step closer to getting justice for what happened.