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What are the penalties in Massachusetts for leaving the scene of an accident?

What are the penalties for leaving the scene of an accident?  This depends on whether the accident involved only property damage or personal injury.  If only property damage is at issue, the case is easier to resolve.

In Massachusetts, anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident on a public road is required to stop and give his name, address, and car registration number to any other individual or vehicle operator involved in the collision.

If property is damaged in addition to the motor vehicles involved, or if people are injured in the collision, the operators are also required to give their information to the owner of the damaged property. Failure to do so can result in criminal charges, with hundreds to thousands of dollars in fines and years of confinement.

The chart below shows the consequences of failing to stop after causing property damage or damage to a person. It is important to note that a conviction of leaving the scene of an accident not only carries prison time and fees, but also license revocation as well.

In order for the court to convict a driver of the crime of leaving the scene of an accident, the prosecution must prove 5 elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. that the defendant was the operator of the vehicle at the time of the accident,
  2. that he operated the vehicle on a public road or any place which the public has a right of access,
  3. that the defendant’s operation of the car caused the collision,
  4. that the defendant knew he had caused damage to another person or property,
  5. and that the defendant failed to stop to give his name, address, and registration number to anyone else involved.
  6. In cases where the injured person dies, the prosecutor must also prove this death, and must prove that the driver fled in order to avoid arrest or prosecution. A conviction in this type of case would be considered a “Felony” and must be issued out of a state Superior Court.

Because the burden remains on the prosecutor, there are many defenses that can be raised to raise doubt and challenge each and every element of the Commonwealth’s case. If you were involved in a car accident, and are facing charges for leaving the scene, it is important that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand your rights and defenses before deciding how to proceed with your case.

In many leaving the scene cases involving property damage, the case can be resolved with the payment of restitution or a probationary period.  Though the statute allows for the possibility of jail time, if you have no record it would be unlikely to be imposed.  The issue you will face is whether you can resolve the case without a license loss and in a manner that avoids probation. Leaving the scene of personal injury is a more serious offense and the resolution of the case will depend on the seriousness of the injuries.

If you leave the scene of property damage, in many cases you will receive a citation in the mail which if you fill out, your case will be scheduled for a clerk magistrate hearing.  This is an opportunity to resolve the case before formal charges are brought.  If you have questions about the process, feel free to call Attorney DelSignore at 781-686-5924.

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