Leaving the Scene of an Accident is a serious motor vehicle offense that can result in criminal charges depending upon the circumstances. Most individuals facing a leaving the scene of an accident charge in NJ will not be facing criminal charges, however the penalties upon conviction for leaving the scene of an accident in New Jersey are severe and life altering nonetheless. If you have been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Newark NJ attorney or Essex County municipal court lawyer who is familiar with the specific court that your leaving the scene of an accident matter will be heard. The right attorney could mean the difference between losing you license for a year and walking away with a minor fine or a not guilty verdict. Please take the time to read the following sections which explain the offense, the penalties, and defenses. This information regarding NJ leaving the scene of the accident law will be helpful and our consultations are always free
Leaving the Scene of an Accident N.J.S.A. 39:4-129
As previously mentioned, most leaving the scene of the accident charges are under the jurisdiction of the municipal court. The traffic offense of leaving the scene of an accident is penalized under the authority of N.J.S.A. 39:4-129. Please take a moment to review the statue that follows. The penalties for leaving the scene of an accident follow this section.
39:4-129. Action in case of accident
(a) The driver of any vehicle, knowingly involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close thereto as possible but shall then forthwith return to and in every event shall remain at the scene until he has fulfilled the requirements of subsection (c) of this section. Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. Any person who shall violate this subsection shall be fined not less than $ 2,500 nor more than $ 5,000, or be imprisoned for a period of 180 days, or both. The term of imprisonment required by this subsection shall be imposed only if the accident resulted in death or injury to a person other than the driver convicted of violating this section.
In addition, any person convicted under this subsection shall forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of one year from the date of his conviction for the first offense and for a subsequent offense shall thereafter permanently forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State.
(b) The driver of any vehicle knowingly involved in an accident resulting only in damage to a vehicle, including his own vehicle, or other property which is attended by any person shall immediately stop his vehicle at the scene of such accident or as close thereto as possible, but shall then forthwith return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of such accident until he has fulfilled the requirements of subsection (c) of this section. Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. Any person who shall violate this subsection shall be fined not less than $ 200 nor more than $ 400, or be imprisoned for a period of not more than 30 days, or both, for the first offense, and for a subsequent offense, shall be fined not less than $ 400 nor more than $ 600, or be imprisoned for a period of not less than 30 days nor more than 90 days or both.
In addition, a person who violates this subsection shall, for a first offense, forfeit the right to operate a motor vehicle in this State for a period of six months from the date of conviction, and for a period of one year from the date of conviction for any subsequent offense.
(c) The driver of any vehicle knowingly involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person or damage to any vehicle or property shall give his name and address and exhibit his operator’s license and registration certificate of his vehicle to the person injured or whose vehicle or property was damaged and to any police officer or witness of the accident, and to the driver or occupants of the vehicle collided with and render to a person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including the carrying of that person to a hospital or a physician for medical or surgical treatment, if it is apparent that the treatment is necessary or is requested by the injured person.
In the event that none of the persons specified are in condition to receive the information to which they otherwise would be entitled under this subsection, and no police officer is present, the driver of any vehicle involved in such accident after fulfilling all other requirements of subsections (a) and (b) of this section, insofar as possible on his part to be performed, shall forthwith report such accident to the nearest office of the local police department or of the county police of the county or of the State Police and submit thereto the information specified in this subsection.
(d) The driver of any vehicle which knowingly collides with or is knowingly involved in an accident with any vehicle or other property which is unattended resulting in any damage to such vehicle or other property shall immediately stop and shall then and there locate and notify the operator or owner of such vehicle or other property of the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle striking the unattended vehicle or other property or, in the event an unattended vehicle is struck and the driver or owner thereof cannot be immediately located, shall attach securely in a conspicuous place in or on such vehicle a written notice giving the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle doing the striking or, in the event other property is struck and the owner thereof cannot be immediately located, shall notify the nearest office of the local police department or of the county police of the county or of the State Police and in addition shall notify the owner of the property as soon as the owner can be identified and located. Any person who violates this subsection shall be punished as provided in subsection (b) of this section.
(e) There shall be a permissive inference that the driver of any motor vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person or damage in the amount of $ 250.00 or more to any vehicle or property has knowledge that he was involved in such accident.
For purposes of this section, it shall not be a defense that the operator of the motor vehicle was unaware of the existence or extent of personal injury or property damage caused by the accident as long as the operator was aware that he was involved in an accident.
There shall be a permissive inference that the registered owner of the vehicle which was involved in an accident subject to the provisions of this section was the person involved in the accident; provided, however, if that vehicle is owned by a rental car company or is a leased vehicle, there shall be a permissive inference that the renter or authorized driver pursuant to a rental car contract or the lessee, and not the owner of the vehicle, was involved in the accident, and the requirements and penalties imposed pursuant to this section shall be applicable to that renter or authorized driver or lessee and not the owner of the vehicle.
Any person who suppresses, by way of concealment or destruction, any evidence of a violation of this section or who suppresses the identity of the violator shall be subject to a fine of not less than $ 250 or more than $ 1,000.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident in NJ
- Fine between $2500 and $5000 for first offense
- Possible imprisonment for up to 180 days. If you injure another or the accident resulted in death, some jail may be mandatory
- Suspension of New Jersey driver’s license for a period of 1 year for a first offense. A second conviction will result in a LIFETIME suspension
- If the accident resulted in injury, eight (8) motor vehicle points. If not two (2) points
As an experienced Essex County NJ municipal court lawyer and criminal defense attorney, I have handles and successfully defended many clients charged with leaving the scene of an accident. The state must be held to its proofs, and the burden is on the state to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The following section provides the elements that must be proved by the State to convict, and some defenses to a leaving the scene of an accident offense in New Jersey:
Elements State Must Prove to Convict
- Operation: The state must prove that the defendant was operating the car. This may be done through direct proof or circumstantial evidence. The judge will weigh the nature of the proofs offered against the evidence offered by the defendant to the contrary
- Knowledge: The state must prove that the defendant knew he/she was involved in a motor vehicle accident. In some cases there is a rebuttable presumption of knowledge if there is injury or damage in excess of $250. A rebuttable presumption is nothing more than a permissive common sense inference that the judge may make given the totality of the circumstances. But, the defendant has the opportunity to challenge.
- Finally, the state must show that you did not stop and return to the scene to fulfill your obligations as quickly as possible.
Defenses to Leaving the Scene of an Accident
In many of the cases I have handled, the charges have been significantly downgraded because I have been able to raise proof issues that the state must acknowledge. It is not always so easy to prove that someone knew they were involved in an accident, considering the rather low $250 threshold. As an experienced municipal court attorney, I know when it is best to seek a plea bargain, and when it is right to fight. Furthermore, these cases frequently present identification issues for the state. This means that it may not be able to prove operation. Of course, eyewitness testimony or admissions by the defendant may come into play. But baring this, the operation element may remain in question to the very end.
On many occasions, even when the state can prove the case, I am able to negotiate deals that result in only fines, no motor vehicle points, and no loss of license. Prosecutors appreciate a local attorney with the experience to know when it is time to fight, and when it is time to mitigate. More often than not, I am able to make the correct choice, and negotiate deals that keep my client safe, or prepare a defense that gives my client a real chance for a not guilty trial verdict.
If you have been issued a ticket in New Jersey for leaving the scene of an accident in Newark, Essex County, or in any New Jersey Municipality, seek the advice of an NJ traffic ticket lawyer who understands how to defend you case.