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Hit and Run laws in Texas

By March 13, 2020February 9th, 2024Failure to Stop and Render Help

 

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 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? This is precisely why it is critical to know Texas law regarding failing to stop and render aid and to prepare effective criminal defense to prevent an outcome that results in prison time or being a convicted felon.

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 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 outlined in 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:

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 criminal offenses is obviously the criminal charge 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, 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.

Under Texas criminal law, the State of Texas must prove “serious bodily injury” beyond a reasonable doubt. Serious bodily injury occurs if the injury involves the permanent loss of use or protracted loss of use of a bodily member or organ. Examples of serious bodily injury under Texas criminal law include permanent disfigurement, being crippled, losing eyesight or hearing, brain damage that causes permanent impairment.

It is not uncommon for the police to overcharge someone involved in an accident involving alleged serious bodily injury. The police and paramedics may show up to the scene of the accident and see that the alleged victim is bleeding or in severe pain and overestimate the extent of the injury. Because the police only need probable cause to establish an arrest warrant for fail to stop and render aid, they may rely upon a snap judgment by a paramedic as the basis to charge someone with a crime that they will not be able to prove in the future.

How do you attack the element of “serious bodily injury?” Your experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney needs to get access to all the evidence on your criminal case and sit down with you and analyze what is accurate. Additionally, your criminal attorney should request the medical records from the alleged victim’s injuries to determine if they meet the legal definition of serious bodily injury under Texas criminal law.

If your criminal lawyer analyzes the evidence and determines that the definition of serious bodily injury can not be met, your lawyer can then prepare an evidence packet consisting of medical records, pictures and any other exculpatory evidence establishing your innocence and make a presentation to the grand jury.

Under Texas criminal law, every felony in Texas must be presented to the grand jury for indictment. The grand jury can accept a case and indictment it as a felony, they can reject a felony case and drop it to a lesser misdemeanor charge, or they can reject the felony and misdemeanor charge by dismissing the case through a finding known as a No Bill. A No Bill is the equivalent of being completely exonerated of all criminal charges. Your criminal lawyer must prepare your case soon after the arrest and make certain that you stand the best change for your criminal charge to be thrown out through the grand jury process.

Upon receiving a no bill from the grand jury, under Texas criminal law, you will be eligible for an expunction of all criminal records, including your arrest and criminal case. Unfortunately, Texas law requires you to wait the statute of limitations for the felony charge before you are permitted to file the expunction. However, it is critical your criminal defense attorney is well versed in these tactics so that you stand the best chance to put this charge behind you.

If your case makes it through the grand jury as a felony accident involving injury or death or failure to stop and render aid, you will have a series of court dates to try to resolve your charge. Each court date has a specific purpose where both the prosecutor and your criminal defense lawyer can compare facts, negotiate possible outcomes for the case and determine if a criminal jury trial is needed.

Remember, you always have a right to a jury trial. If the prosecutor is not being reasonable regarding the resolution of your case, your criminal attorney can push the case to a jury trial to give you the opportunity to clear your name.

What happens at a Texas criminal jury trial? A jury trial is a legal right provided for in our U.S. and Texas Constitution. You never have a burden to prove anything if you stand accused of a crime. The State of Texas must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Upon completion of the trial, the judge will instruct the jury that if they do not believe that each element of the crime has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, they MUST find you not guilty. A finding of not guilty provides you an IMMEDIATE opportunity to have your criminal arrest and case expunged from your criminal record.

A typical jury trial begins with jury selection. Jury selection gives both the prosecutor and the defense the opportunity to ask prospective jurors questions and determine who has hidden biases and prejudices that could create an unfair trial. This is one area your criminal defense lawyer must be experienced with – reading other people and determining the hidden thoughts of potential jurors. After all, these jurors are the people that will judge you and determine your future. Your criminal defense attorney wants people with an open mind that are willing to take evidence as the find it.

After jury selection there will be opening statements from both the prosecutor and your criminal defense lawyer and then the State of Texas will be required to put on their criminal case by calling witnesses to prove the alleged crime. Your criminal attorney will have the right to cross examine these witnesses to expose the truth and hidden motives and objectives of the witnesses to better show that you were not guilty of the alleged crime.

For example, if your criminal attorney has medical records casting doubt upon the injury being a serious bodily injury, your lawyer can cross examine the police officers and the State’s medical expert to create a reasonable doubt as to an essential element of the crime.

Finally, your criminal attorney has the right to call witnesses on your behalf. Upon completion of the evidence, both the prosecutor and the criminal defense have the opportunity to provide closing statements.

When choosing a criminal defense attorney, it is critical that your lawyer has experience in both negotiating fail to stop and render aid cases but also taking these cases to a jury trial. At the end of the day, results are what matters. Facing a felony case is too important to leave your future to chance.

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.

Failure to Stop and Render Help Attorney

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.

At The Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys, PLLC, we have a team of 5 Former Prosecutors that stand ready to protect you from the government. Protect your freedom! Protect your future! Call us now for a free case analysis and consultation. We would be happy to discuss your options with you and formulate a plan to help you.

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.