Up until October of 2015, anyone who left the scene of a Nevada auto accident faced lesser penalties than he would if caught driving under the influence in that state. This fact gave rise to a disturbing trend: It encouraged hit-and-run behavior from those who feared a DUI conviction more than they did a verdict of guilty for having fled the scene.
In Nevada today, those who run away from an accident in which they were involved face the same penalties as they would if caught driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Sometimes, however, the two go hand in hand.
DUI Hit-and-Run Versus Simple Hit-and-Run
Nevada law is crystal clear. If you happen to be involved in an automobile accident, it is your responsibility to stop your car and remain at the scene. When your driving errors have resulted in damage to someone else’s property, you must contact the owner immediately and claim responsibility for the harm you’ve caused. If the accident in which you were involved resulted in the death or bodily injury of at least one other person, you are under an obligation to provide the victim with some form of appropriate assistance. You must also file a report with the police or the highway patrol. Failure to do any of these things amounts to a misdemeanor.
Most importantly in any case, you must not leave the scene. If you take it upon yourself to simply slip away, you’ve now committed a serious crime. Throw in a DUI, and things are about to get a whole lot worse.
Misdemeanor versus Felony Hit-and-Run
In Nevada, fleeing the scene of an accident that has caused any sort of property damage amounts to a misdemeanor. Unless personal injury has also entered the picture, penalties will include a jail term of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000 and six points on your driver’s license.
On the other hand, leaving the scene of a car accident that has resulted in bodily injury or caused death to at least one other person qualifies as a category B felony. In a case like this, the degree of harm you have inflicted upon another human being will stand as the primary factor in determining your potential punishment.
When DUI Becomes a Factor
The combination of hit-and-run with DUI will always deepen the severity of a situation that can be as complicated as it is hard to quantify. Persons accused of DUI hit-and-run will always face at least two separate charges: one for the DUI and one for leaving the scene. Depending on the specific circumstances of the case, you may also face separate charges for reckless driving, vehicular homicide or causing bodily injury.
The vast majority of DUI hit-and-run accidents occur on weekends. With drinking and drug-taking often more prevalent from Friday through Monday, many experts believe that the act of leaving the scene derives from the driver’s fear of being caught behind the wheel while impaired by drugs or an over-the-limit blood alcohol content. A large number of states will punish a driver more harshly for having caused an accident while driving under the influence than they will for the crime of having left the scene.
By penalizing the separate crimes of felony DUI and leaving an accident scene with equal levels of severity, Nevada’s new laws constitute an attempt to stop this thinking in its tracks by removing this common incentive to flee.
DUI Hit-and-Run Consequences
Whether or not you were actually responsible for an accident from which you felt the need to run, the simple fact that you chose to do so is enough to justify hit-and-run charges against you. Even if the accident involved only property damage, a driver who has fled the scene could spend up to six months in jail along with a potential fine of as much as $1,000 and six points added to his license. Throw in the charge of DUI, and penalties in Nevada could easily double.
This is particularly true in cases resulting in death or bodily injury. Fleeing the scene in a case like this could get you as many as 15 years in jail as well as a possible fine of up to $5,000. It could also lead to the complete loss of your driving privileges.
In addition to criminal charges, anyone who leaves the scene of an accident in which injuries or fatalities have occurred is likely to face a civil suit. Either the victim’s family or the victim himself can choose to sue you for restitution, leaving you responsible for substantial amounts of damages if you should lose your case.
Fighting the Charges of DUI Hit-and-Run
If you’ve made the mistake of fleeing an accident scene while driving impaired by drugs or alcohol, it is vital to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney familiar with DUI hit-and-run cases in Nevada. Potential defenses include challenging the evidence against you, discrediting the validity of roadside sobriety tests and casting doubt on the prosecution’s contention that you were the person behind the wheel at the time. Things may go a bit easier if this was your first DUI or you happened to be underage at the time.
The charge of DUI hit-and-run is a serious one. After a careful assessment of the details of your case, an experienced DUI attorney will assist you in mounting your defense against this particularly egregious charge. Call Weiner Law Group today for your free initial consultation at 702-202-0500.