If you took a driver’s education class in the last 30 years, you probably received the following instruction if you ever hit anything with your car:
“If there is an injury, call the police;
If there is damage, leave a note; and
If there is no damage, go about your day.”
Unfortunately, this instruction is incomplete and often wrong. Even worse, countless people that have followed this advice later find themselves in King County District Court, Pierce County District Court or a local court (like Bellevue District Court or Seattle Municipal Court) answering a Hit & Run charge.
There are several kinds of Hit & Run in Washington.
- Hit & Run with Injury or Death – RCW 46.52.020(1)
- Hit & Run of an Attended Vehicle – RCW 46.52.020(2)
- Hit & Run of an Unattended Vehicle or Property – RCW 46.52.010
Each of these crimes has different consequences, from potential prison time to a license suspension (anywhere from a few weeks up to years) to significant fines and the need for expensive enhanced insurance.
There are 2 important things to remember any time your car touches or comes close to touching another car or property.
First, it doesn’t matter if you think there is damage or not. If your car touched or even might have touched another car, a person or someone else’s property (including a road sign, a tree, a fence, etc.) you must stop and leave your name, address and contact information in a “conspicuous place” for the property owner to find it. Even if you have carefully inspected the property or car and there is not a blemish. Not leaving a note, leaving an incomplete note or leaving with the plan to bring a note back later are all decisions that have triggered criminal charges.
Second, if you are involved in an accident where there is death, injury or even possible injury, don’t leave. Don’t give any statements to the police. Don’t do field sobriety tests. Do ask to call a lawyer immediately and keep asking until you have the chance to talk with Scott or another lawyer.
Hit and Run in Washington is a crime. It can result in a permanent criminal record. It can result in jail time and fines. It can trigger a suspension of your driver’s license and the need for enhanced insurance. If you ever find yourself facing a Hit & Run charge in Washington, call Scott.