Leaving the scene of an accident can have serious implications, particularly when the incident involves bodily injury, death, or significant property damage. In accordance with Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) § 28-661, drivers have a legal obligation to remain at the scene of an accident and provide necessary assistance.
❗According to data from the Arizona Department of Transportation, there were approximately 12,000 hit-and-run crashes reported in the state in the past year. Out of these, a significant portion involved serious injuries or fatalities, leading to increased attention and enforcement of hit and run laws.
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What Constitutes a Felony Hit and Run Accident?
A felony hit and run accident in Arizona involves leaving the scene of a collision where injury or death occurs, without providing necessary information or aid.
To establish charges, the prosecution must prove the defendant's awareness of injury, intent to flee, and the connection to the accident
Valid defenses may include lack of knowledge, seeking immediate medical help, or coerced confession. Notably, parking lot incidents account for around 40% of hit and run crashes. Facing such charges demands expert legal guidance to navigate the complex landscape and safeguard rights in accordance with Arizona law.
▶ Understanding the Legal Definition
Arizona law defines a felony hit and run as leaving the scene of an accident without fulfilling the required legal responsibilities. This includes failing to provide aid to injured parties, exchanging contact and insurance information, and reporting the incident to law enforcement.
▶ Factors That Elevate Charges to Felony
Felony hit-and-run charges are often brought when the accident results in bodily harm, death, or substantial property damage. Understanding the specific circumstances that lead to the escalation of charges is crucial in building a strong defense strategy.
▶ Importance of Prompt Reporting
Timely reporting of an accident is essential to avoid potential felony charges. Arizona law requires drivers to immediately report an accident to law enforcement when there are injuries or fatalities. Failure to do so can result in serious legal consequences.
▶ Hit and Run Involving Unattended Vehicles or Property
Even cases involving unattended vehicles or property damage require drivers to take responsible actions. Leaving the scene without leaving a note with contact information can still lead to criminal charges under certain circumstances.
▶ Differentiating Between Felony and Misdemeanor Hit and Runs
Understanding the distinction between felony and misdemeanor hit-and-run charges is vital. While felony charges result from more severe circumstances, misdemeanor charges may apply when the accident involves minor property damage and no injuries.
Legal Responsibilities After a Car Accident
In the aftermath of an accident, drivers are legally bound to fulfill a series of responsibilities to ensure the safety of all parties involved in the accident and to prevent the risk of facing felony hit-and-run charges. Navigating these responsibilities is essential for managing the aftermath of an accident effectively and responsibly in the state of Arizona.
▶ Providing Adequate Assistance to Injured Parties
When an accident results in injuries, drivers have a moral and legal obligation to render reasonable aid to those who are hurt. This includes calling for medical assistance, providing basic first aid if trained, or facilitating transportation to a medical facility.
▶ Exchanging Comprehensive Contact and Insurance Information
In the event of a vehicle accident, all involved drivers must exchange accurate and comprehensive information. This includes sharing names, addresses, driver's license numbers, and insurance details. Ensuring the accuracy of this information is crucial for future insurance claims and legal proceedings.
▶ Promptly Reporting the Accident to Law Enforcement
Certain accidents require immediate reporting to law enforcement. If the accident involves bodily injuries, fatalities, or significant property damage, drivers must promptly notify the appropriate authorities. This reporting is a vital step in upholding legal obligations and facilitating a thorough investigation.
▶ Documenting the Accident Scene and Details
Collecting evidence by documenting the accident scene is essential. This includes taking clear photographs of vehicle positions, damages, road conditions, and any relevant road signs or signals. Detailed notes about the incident can also serve as valuable evidence for insurance claims and legal defense.
▶ Remaining Present at the Scene
Unless seeking medical attention is necessary, drivers involved in an accident must remain at the scene until they have fulfilled all legal obligations and received permission from law enforcement to leave. If you leave an accident scene prematurely you can result in accusations of hit and run, even if unintentional.
Penalties for Felony Hit-and-Run Accident Convictions
The severity of penalties varies based on the specific circumstances of the case and can have a profound impact on an individual's life. Being prepared with accurate information about these potential penalties is essential for making informed decisions when it comes to legal defense strategies.
▶ Imprisonment and Fines
Conviction of a felony hit-and-run offense can result in substantial prison sentences. In Arizona, penalties can range from several months to years of imprisonment, depending on the extent of harm caused by the accident. Additionally, hefty fines may be imposed, with amounts varying based on the severity of the offense and the resulting damages.
▶ Probation and Restitution
In some cases, the court may grant probation instead of imprisonment. However, probation typically comes with strict conditions, such as mandatory counseling, community service, and regular check-ins with a probation officer. Moreover, individuals convicted of hit-and-run offenses may be ordered to pay restitution to the victims to cover medical expenses, property damage repairs, and other related costs.
▶ Driver's License Suspension or Revocation
A felony hit-and-run conviction can lead to the suspension or revocation of a driver's license. The duration of the suspension can vary based on the severity of the offense. In certain cases, individuals may be required to attend driver's education or defensive driving courses before being allowed to reinstate their license.
Defenses Against Felony Hit-and-Run Charges
When facing serious allegations of felony hit-and-run charges, mounting a robust defense strategy is crucial to protecting your rights and ensuring a fair legal process. Engaging the expertise of a seasoned criminal defense attorney is essential for navigating the complexities of the legal system and building a defense tailored to the specific circumstances of your case. Here are some key defense strategies that can be employed:
▶ Lack of Knowledge or Awareness
One effective defense strategy involves demonstrating a lack of knowledge or awareness regarding the accident. If you genuinely were unaware of the collision or didn't comprehend the extent of the damage caused, this can serve as a legitimate defense. Your attorney can work to gather evidence that supports your claim of not realizing your involvement in the incident. This could include establishing a timeline of events that shows your activities before and after the accident, indicating that you had no reason to suspect your involvement.
▶ Mistaken Identity
Mistaken identity can play a significant role in certain cases. If there is doubt about whether you were the driver who left the scene, your attorney can work to establish a strong alibi or provide evidence that contradicts the prosecution's assertions. This may involve presenting witnesses who can vouch for your whereabouts at the time of the accident or providing evidence that shows your vehicle was not at the scene.
▶ Challenging Evidence
A strategic defense involves scrutinizing the evidence presented by the prosecution. Your attorney will thoroughly examine witness statements, accident reconstruction reports, and any available surveillance footage to identify inconsistencies or weaknesses. Challenging the accuracy or reliability of evidence can cast doubt on the prosecution's case and create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors.
▶ Establishing Lack of Intent
Successfully arguing that you lacked the intent to leave the scene of the accident can be a powerful defense. Your attorney can demonstrate that circumstances beyond your control compelled your departure, such as a medical emergency or the need to seek immediate help for injured passengers.
▶ Negotiating Lesser Charges
In some instances, negotiations with the prosecution can lead to the reduction of charges from a felony to a misdemeanor, especially if the evidence is not overwhelmingly against you. This approach can result in lighter penalties and a less severe impact on your criminal record.
Steps to Take After Being Charged with Felony Hit-and-Run
If you find yourself facing felony hit-and-run charges, taking strategic and decisive actions can make a significant difference in the trajectory of your case. The legal process can be complex and intimidating, but understanding the crucial steps to take after being charged is essential to ensure the protection of your rights and the development of a strong defense strategy.
- Remain Calm: Understand that panic can lead to poor decisions. Keeping calm will allow you to think clearly and take the necessary steps correctly.
- Involve Your Insurance: If you do get into an accident and flee the scene, it's important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible. They should be informed about the situation, your charges, and any potential claims.
- Hire An Attorney: One of the first steps in this process should be hiring a criminal defense attorney. When facing a felony hit-and-run charge, you will need the expertise of a lawyer who is familiar with Arizona’s comprehensive hit-and-run laws. An attorney can protect your rights and develop a strong defense.
- Document Everything: Keep records of all the events surrounding your case. This can include any medical records if you were injured, photographs of the damages to the vehicles involved, any communications with law enforcement, and any witness statements. This could be useful evidence when arguing your case.
- Cooperate with Law Enforcement: Always cooperate with law enforcement. However, don't volunteer any information about the incident until you have spoken with your attorney. Remember, anything you say can and will be used against you.
- Prepare Your Defense: With your attorney, establish and prepare your defense. This could include challenging the evidence against you, questioning the accuracy of witness statements, or demonstrating that you were not aware that an accident had occurred.
- Attend Court Hearings: Ensure you attend all court hearings related to your case. If you fail to appear, a warrant could be issued for your arrest.
- Plea Bargaining: Depending on the circumstances of your case, your attorney might negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor. This could reduce your charges or sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.
- Trial: If you and your attorney decide to contest the charges, you will go to trial. At trial, your attorney will present evidence and arguments on your behalf, and the prosecution will present against you.
- Sentencing: If you are found guilty, a judge will decide your sentence based on Arizona’s laws and guidelines. Sentences for felony hit-and-run can include fines, imprisonment, probation, and suspension or revocation of your driver's license.
- Appeal: If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the case, discuss with your attorney about the possibility of filing an appeal.
It's crucial to remember that this list is general and might not cover all the steps applicable to your case. The best course of action when charged with a felony hit-and-run is to immediately consult with an experienced attorney who can provide advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
How a Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
Facing felony hit and run charges in Arizona is a serious and life-changing matter. The intricacies of the law and the possible ramifications of a conviction underscore the need for an experienced and committed criminal defense attorney in your corner.
Attorney Josh Kolsrud of Kolsrud Law Offices has the requisite skills to provide robust defense. Discussed below, we outline how his experience, specializations, and relentless commitment to his clients make him the ideal choice for anyone facing felony hit and run charges under Arizona Revised Statute 28-661.
▶ Broad Experience and Expertise
- Former Federal Prosecutor: Josh Kolsrud's past work as a federal prosecutor equips him with invaluable insights into the prosecution's strategies and approaches.
Outstanding Track Record: His handling of over 3,500 cases and over 100 jury trials in Arizona is evidence of his vast legal expertise.
- Specialization in Felony Hit and Run Cases: His understanding of the particulars of hit and run laws and the complexities tied to these cases sets him apart from other defense attorneys.
▶ Steadfast Dedication to Clients
- Personalized Approach: Josh Kolsrud devotes time to comprehend every aspect of his client's case, formulating a defense strategy tailored to the specific circumstances.
- Client-Centric Philosophy: His dedication to his clients extends beyond legal representation, providing support, empathy, and understanding throughout the legal journey.
▶ Comprehensive Free Consultations
- In-Depth Case Evaluation: Our law firm provides complimentary consultations where all facets of the case are examined from all angles. This ensures that nothing is overlooked in crafting a winning defense.
- Strategic Planning: During the consultation, potential defense strategies are examined, and a clear plan for the case is presented.
▶ Commitment to Constructing a Winning Defense
- Thorough Investigation: Josh Kolsrud leverages his expertise to perform in-depth investigations, challenging the prosecution's evidence, and uncovering facts that may bolster the defense.
- Negotiation and Litigation: Whether securing a favorable plea deal or vigorously defending the case in court, he is committed to achieving the best possible result for his clients.
Facing felony hit and run charges in Arizona requires an experienced, adept, and devoted defense attorney. Josh Kolsrud of Kolsrud Law Offices embodies these qualities, utilizing his former federal prosecutor insights, his substantial trial experience, and his unwavering dedication to his client's cases.
By offering comprehensive free consultations, he guarantees that every client receives the specialized attention and robust defense they deserve. Confronting a felony hit and run charge is a daunting task, but with the support of Phoenix criminal defense attorney Josh Kolsrud, you can have confidence that your case is in the hands of one of Arizona's top criminal defense attorneys.
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An award-winning criminal defense attorney Since 2006
Why Choose Josh Kolsrud
With over 100 trials to his name, and years of experience as a state and federal prosecutor, Josh understands the law, the legal process, and your rights. Josh is also committed to representing every client with utmost integrity and dedication
Josh has prosecuted major crimes on the state and federal level, led a successful anti-human sex trafficking operation that saved lives, and argued before countless juries and justices for his clients
Josh is an expert in both Arizona and federal criminal law, and is ready to put that expertise to work for you.
As a prosecutor, Josh saw far too many defendants lose their livelihood due to poor representation. Josh will always give every client his complete attention and effort