What Should You Know About Hit-and-Run?
Leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offense in the State of Illinois, and if you’re charged with leaving the scene of an accident in this state, you should be advised and represented – as quickly as possible – by a Chicago hit-and-run lawyer.
The numbers are alarming. More than 37,000 hit-and-run accidents were reported to Chicago authorities in 2021 – on average, more than one hundred hit-and-run accidents every day – leaving 36 fatalities and over 4,800 people seriously injured.
What constitutes “hit-and-run” and “leaving the scene” of a traffic accident? What are the penalties for a hit-and-run conviction in Illinois? When should you contact a Chicago hit-and-run attorney? For the answers, keep reading this brief discussion of hit-and-run laws in Illinois.
How is Hit-and-Run Defined?
Under Illinois law, a hit-and-run accident occurs when the driver of a motorized vehicle strikes a person, another vehicle, or other property and leaves the accident scene before providing his or her contact and insurance details to the other parties involved.
An driver in Illinois is legally required to stay at a traffic accident scene until all of the parties involved have exchanged personal contact details and insurance information and the crash has been reported to the local police.
If you leave the scene of an Illinois accident too soon, you may be charged either with a misdemeanor or with a felony, depending on the details of the accident.
Why Do Drivers Leave Accident Scenes?
Why are there so many hit-and-run accidents in the Chicago area? There are some hard-to-explain reasons why drivers may flee from an accident scene:
- There is an active warrant for the driver’s arrest.
- The vehicle is stolen.
- The driver is carrying contraband or stolen items.
- The driver is intoxicated, has no insurance, or has a suspended or revoked license.
There may also be some very good explanations for leaving the scene of an accident:
- The driver feared for their safety.
- The driver believed they had exchanged all information.
- The driver or their passengers may have been injured in the accident.
- The driver may have been confused or disoriented.
In many cases, the driver may benefit from having a lawyer explain their story in court.
What Does the Law Require?
In Illinois, a driver who is involved in an accident that causes injury, death, or damage to property must safely stop his or her vehicle, assist anyone who is injured, and provide his or her name, address, registration, and driver’s license number to the others involved in the accident.
Illinois also requires you to submit a report in writing if the accident resulted in a fatality, injury, or over $1,500 of property damage. If the police officers who respond to the scene do not provide a report form, you may obtain the form from any Illinois sheriff’s office or police station.
How Are Hit-and-Run Accidents Handled in Illinois?
Illinois police agencies aggressively look into hit-and-run reports. They gather evidence from video cameras and eyewitnesses. If you have left an accident scene in the Chicago area, arrange to speak with a Chicago hit-and-run lawyer – now.
If you are placed under arrest for hit-and-run, whether you are guilty or innocent, it is generally advised to not answer any questions the police may ask. Insist – politely – on your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present for any questioning, and then say no more.
What Are the Penalties for Hit-and-Run Convictions?
The penalties that may be imposed if you are convicted of hit-and-run in Illinois depend on the details of the accident, the nature and extent of the damages, and your driving record:
- If you strike a parked, unattended vehicle or other property, and you don’t leave personal contact and insurance information, it’s a Class A misdemeanor that may be penalized with jail time and a fine. If the damage exceeds $1,000, your driver’s license is suspended.
- Failure to stop after an accident with an injury is a Class Four felony. The penalties for a conviction may include a prison term, a substantial fine, and a license revocation. Failing to report the accident is a Class Two felony punishable with an even longer prison term.
- The failure to stop after a fatal accident is a Class Four felony, but the failure to report a fatal accident to the authorities is a Class One felony that can send you to prison for up to fifteen years if you’re convicted.
What Are the Consequences of a Hit-and-Run Conviction?
A hit-and-run conviction establishes a criminal record that makes someone’s life more difficult for years after the offender has paid his or her “debt to society.” In particular, a felony conviction may make it difficult to find employment or housing or to obtain a loan or public assistance.
In addition to any penalty that may be imposed by a criminal court, a hit-and-run offender could also face a civil lawsuit filed by the victim or victims for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, personal pain, and mental suffering.
If you hold a professional license in this state, a felony conviction for hit-and-run may trigger a disciplinary action by your state professional licensing board, and if you’re not a U.S. citizen, a felony conviction for hit-and-run may prompt a deportation proceeding.
What Else Should You Know?
If you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident that caused injuries or a fatality, or if you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident that involved drugs or alcohol, you will be faced with jail or prison if you are convicted. It is a conviction you absolutely must try to avoid.
You should know, however, that prosecutors often have difficulty proving a hit-and-run defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s because prosecutors in these cases typically count on circumstantial evidence and eyewitness testimony in order to win convictions.
While some hit-and-run cases in Illinois reach plea bargains, many other hit-and-run cases go to trial. So it is imperative to have the right Chicago hit-and-run attorney advocating on your behalf and casting doubt on the state’s case against you.
Meet the Driver Defense Team
Prevailing against a hit-and-run accusation requires a defense attorney with considerable experience in the Illinois justice system. The Driver Defense Team will protect your legal rights, develop an effective legal strategy, and bring your hit-and-run case to its best possible outcome.
If you didn’t realize an accident occurred, you were confused, or if some other motorist fled the accident scene and you have been misidentified or wrongly accused, the Driver Defense Team will ensure that your side of what happened is told fully and understood clearly.
To find out more – or if you would like to arrange a free, no-obligation legal consultation with one of our attorneys – promptly call the Driver Defense Team in Chicago at 312-940-8330.