Hit and Run in Ohio: What You Need to Know
Ohio treats leaving the scene of a traffic accident as a serious offense. Even the victim in a traffic accident can be charged with the offense that state statutes call stopping after an accident if he or she takes off after a crash without first speaking with police. As a Columbus Ohio traffic defense attorney, here is what Colin Maher of The Maher Law Firm tells drivers they must know.
You Must Stay on the Scene or Leave a Note
Ohio’s hit and run laws apply to crashes on public roads and highways as well as on private property. If the accident occurs on a public road or highway, the person must remain at the scene until certain information is exchanged. If the accident occurs on private property, the person must stop and exchange certain information upon request of any person or report it to the police within 24 hours.
People involved in traffic accidents must share their name, address, and vehicle registration information. If they do not own the vehicle, they must share the name and address of the owner as well as the registration number for the vehicle involved. If available, the operator must also share their driver’s license.
Should you hit a parked vehicle, you must wait for the other driver to return or leave a note that includes the information you would give to police and information on how to contact you. Never assume you can just drive off without being identified. Eyewitnesses may exist, and many lots and garages are monitored by security cameras.
If you are involved in an accident causing property damage, you must make reasonable attempts to identify the owner of the property and share your information. If after a reasonable search the owner cannot be found, you must contact the police to convey the required information.
You Should Alert Your Own Insurance Company
This is not a legal requirement, but calling your own insurance company as soon as possible after a crash is a smart idea. Even if you are at fault, getting your own insurer involved early helps you by prompting the company’s investigators and representatives to begin working on a civil defense against claims and lawsuits.
Penalties for Causing a Hit and Run Are Harsh
A conviction for causing a hit and run crash that leaves only vehicle damage is considered a misdemeanor that can result in a sentence that includes
- Spending up to 180 days in jail
- Paying a $1000 fine
- Paying court costs
- Serving probation and/or doing community service instead of, or in conjunction with, serving jail time
- Paying restitution to the owner of the damaged vehicle
- Having 6 points put on your license
- Having your personal driver’s license and any CDLs you hold suspended for between six months and three years
A hit and run crash that leaves a person injured is treated as fifth-degree felony punishable by 12 months in jail. Fleeing the scene of an accident in which someone dies is treated as a third-degree felony punishable by up to three years in jail. Fines and other penalties also increase with a felony conviction.
Defenses Against Hit and Run Charges Exist
To convict you of causing a hit and run accident, a prosecutor must prove that you were the person driving and that you did not exchange the required information, speak with police in order to convey your information, or leave a note in the event the vehicle is not occupied. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt must also show that you knew or should have known that you crashed into another vehicle, person, or property. Physical evidence is often lacking in hit and run cases, and witness accounts are often unreliable. Hiring an experienced Columbus Ohio traffic defense attorney when charged for fleeing an accident scene always makes sense.