Traffic accidents are no joke. More than 910 highway crashes occurred in Louisiana in 2021. That’s an increase of more than 150 accidents from the previous year.
Louisiana law enforcement personnel take traffic law very seriously, which is why a hit and run can lead to severe penalties. When you are faced with a hit and run charge, you may feel helpless. But you can defend yourself with the facts.
What is a hit and run under statute law? What are the penalties you face, and what other offenses can you be charged with? How can you defend yourself?
Answer these questions and you can resolve a hit and run case in no time. Here is your quick guide.
The Definition of Hit and Run
Louisiana Revised Statute 14:100 gives the definition for hit-and-run driving under Louisiana law. A hit and run occurs when a driver causes or is involved in an accident and then drives away from the scene. The driver does not give their identity and they do not provide aid to injured people.
“Giving their identity” means that the driver does not tell anyone their name, address, and license number. They do not contact the police or report the accident, even when they are required by law to do so.
People who are driving on an active roadway and witness an accident are not required to stop at the scene. Pedestrians are also not required to stop, though their information may be useful and they should try to stop.
The law applies to situations where drivers hit property but not people. If someone hits a road sign and then leaves, they have committed a hit and run. If they leave the scene and then come back, they have still committed a hit and run because the Louisiana Revised Statutes require an immediate stop after an accident.
The more severe the accident is, the harsher the penalties will be. But even a hit and run that results in no injuries can lead to serious penalties.
A hit and run that causes no death or serious bodily injuries can lead to a fine of up to $500. A driver may go to jail for up to six months, but there is no minimum sentence. A judge may opt to give a driver probation and community service in lieu of imprisonment.
The state adds additional penalties depending on a few factors. A driver may have consumed alcohol or drugs, and their consumption may have led to the accident. They then fled the scene knowing that their actions could affect a criminal investigation.
In such cases, the state attaches a minimum prison sentence of ten days. The maximum prison sentence and fine are still the same.
A hit and run on this level is a misdemeanor. A driver will not lose their right to vote or own a firearm. However, a conviction will produce a criminal record and a driver may have their license suspended.
Keep in mind that a driver can get charged with multiple offenses after a hit and run. In addition to a DUI, a driver can get charged with reckless driving, which can lead to 90 days in prison.
Death or Serious Bodily Injury
A serious bodily injury is an injury that leads to unconsciousness, extreme pain, and/or disfigurement. Concussions, spinal cord damage, and loss of limbs count as serious bodily injuries.
If a driver flees a scene after someone dies or sustains a serious bodily injury, they face a fine of up to $5,000. They may go to prison for up to ten years.
A hit and run after a death or serious injury is a felony offense. Someone convicted of a felony in Louisiana can lose their rights to vote, run for office, and own a firearm unless they get a pardon or expungement. In addition to a hit and run offense, a driver can get charged with vehicular homicide as well as reckless driving.
Previous convictions can tack on additional penalties after accidents that result in death or a serious injury. A driver with two previous DUI convictions faces added penalties, even if they were not driving under the influence before the accident. Convictions of vehicular homicide and vehicular negligent injuring will also lead to higher penalties.
A driver with any of these previous convictions faces a minimum prison sentence of five years. Their maximum sentence is 20 years. Their hit and run charge carries felony weight, and their license can get suspended for two years.
Prosecutors have a very high burden of proof. They must prove that a defendant caused an accident, then they must prove that the defendant failed to stop.
An alibi defense means that you were not at the scene at the time of the accident. Witnesses may have misidentified you or your vehicle. You can provide surveillance footage, text messages, and timesheets to show you were somewhere else when the accident happened.
If you were at the scene, you can prove that you did stop. You may have gone up the road to get help or avoid a vehicle that was on fire. You can use eyewitness testimony and physical evidence to show you stopped.
For you to receive higher penalties based on someone’s death, the prosecutor must show that the death was a direct result of the accident. You can show using medical evidence that the death resulted from another cause.
The Essentials of the Hit and Run
Anyone who leaves an accident that they caused commits a hit and run. Even if no one was hurt, a defendant may go to prison for six months. The worse the injuries and damage, the higher the penalties, and a driver may go to prison for up to 20 years.
But there are solutions to hit and run charges. You can provide concrete evidence to build an alibi or to show you stopped at the scene.