The idea of getting into an accident is a terrifying thought. It is a stressful event and the average person may not know what is required of them if they do get into an accident themselves.
So what about when you aren’t injured, but part of the accident…or even just a witness? It can still be pretty stressful, and the fact is, stressful situations often lead individuals to make poor choices.
This may be one of the reasons why there are laws in place criminalizing immoral conduct after an accident. Did you know that here in the State of Texas, failure to stop and render aid can land you a felony charge?
Your Legal Requirements for Stopping to Render Aid
When you are involved in an auto accident in Texas, there are four primary requirements you must adhere to in order to avoid charges for failing to stop and render aid. They are:
- Individuals must stop their vehicles at the scene of the accident (or as close as possible).
- Individuals must return to the scene of the accident immediately if, for some reason, the car was not initially stopped at the scene of the accident.
- Individuals must assess whether or not there was another person involved in the accident, and when there was, they must determine whether they require aid.
- Individuals must remain at the scene of the accident until they fulfill the requirements outline be section 023. The individual that is required to stop the vehicle must also do so without blocking traffic more than necessary.
So what happens if you don’t take these steps? You probably won’t like the answer.
Texas Legal Penalties When You Don’t Stop and Help
As the title of this article suggests, when you don’t take these steps you’re subject to a felony charge. Failure to stop and render aid carries penalties ranging from mild to severe depending on the circumstances of the offense.
Due to their severe and recurring nature, you can be sure, though, that penalties are now elevated when traffic-related crimes coincide with hit-and-run accidents. This includes failing to render aid.
Currently, hit and runs are punishable by:
- A maximum of 20 years imprisonment
- Other penalties, such as a suspension of license
The offense of failing to stop and render aid can be categorized into two categories: those accidents involving damage to a vehicle, and those that involve injury or death.
Texas Accidents Involving Damage to Vehicles Only
The lesser of the two offenses is obviously the one that doesn’t involve someone getting hurt. Accidents involving damage to vehicles only requires operators to fulfill the following criteria:
- When there is no personal injury involved in an accident, you are not required to determine whether another party requires aid, and you do not have to render any aid.
You do, however, need to stay at (or return to) the scene of the accident until authorities arrive.
- When the accident occurs in a highly-trafficked roadway, those involved are required to move their vehicles as soon as possible, so as to minimize obstruction to traffic.
A person commits an offense if they do not fulfill the requirements listed above, and can be charged as follows:
- A Class C misdemeanor if the damage to all vehicles is less than $200. This is punishable by a fine up to $500.
- A Class C misdemeanor if a person does not comply with the requirements in subsection B. This is punishable by a fine up to $500.
- A Class B misdemeanor if the damage to all vehicles is more than $200. This is punishable by a fine up to $2000, imprisonment for up to 180 days or both.
Accidents Involving Injury or Death in Texas
Accidents occurring from severe impacts, such as careless driving on a highway or speeding are more likely to result in injury or death. However, regardless of the scope of the accident, a person commits an offense if the accident results in:
- The death of a person. This is a second-degree felony and punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, a $10,000 fine or both.
- Serious bodily injury to another person. This is a third-degree felony and punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.
An individual that causes an injury resulting from an accident that does not meet the criteria above may face a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment or one year in county jail, a $5,000 fine or both imprisonment and a fine.
It’s hard to believe that on top of every other stress associated with a traffic accident, you could be subject to a felony charge if you’re not able to think straight, too! One way to ensure you’re protected? Keep contact info handy for an experienced Texas defense attorney. You never know when you might need one.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.