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What is the penalty for hit and run?

Hit and Run Explained

Hit and Run Penalties in Louisiana

The penalties for hit and run in Louisiana vary depending on the alleged facts of the crime.  The criminal charge under La. R.S. 14:100 can either be a misdemeanor or felony depending on these alleged facts.  Either way, prosecutors take hit and run extremely serious in Louisiana.

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.

Misdemeanor Hit and Run

If there is no death or serious bodily injury the court shall fine the defendant not more than $500, sentence him to jail for not more than six months, or both.

If there is no death or serious bodily injury, the judge shall fine the defendant not more than $500, sentence him to jail time for not less than 10 days nor more than 6 months, or both when it can be proved that the driver consumed alcohol or drugs which contributed to the accident and the driver failed to stop knowing that his actions could affect his prosecution.

Felony Hit and Run

Felony hit-and-run driving occurs when death or serious bodily injury is a direct result of the accident and when the driver knew or should have known that death or serious bodily injury has occurred. The judge shall be fine the defendant not more than $5000, sentence him to imprisonment with or without hard labor for not more than 10 years, or both.

The most serious felony hit-and-run driving charge occurs where all of the conditions below are met.  In that case, the judge shall order imprisonment, with or without hard labor, for not less than 5 years nor more than 20 years:

(a)  Death or serious bodily injury is a direct result of the accident.

(b)  The driver knew or must have known that the vehicle he was operating was involved in an accident or that his operation of the vehicle was the direct cause of an accident.

(c)  The driver had been previously convicted of any of the following:  DWI, on two or more occasions within ten years of this offense, vehicular homicide, vehicular negligent injuring, or first degree vehicular negligent injuring.

Previous Convictions

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. 

Hit and Run Accident

Hit-and-run accident in Louisiana is the intentional failure of the driver of a vehicle involved in or causing any accident, to stop such vehicle at the scene of the accident, to give his identity, and to render reasonable aid. “To give his identity”, means that the driver of any vehicle involved in any accident shall give his name, address, and the license number of his vehicle, or shall report the accident to the police.  The vehicle could be a boat as well as a car. In Louisiana, hit and runs occur on the waterways. “Accident” means an incident or event resulting in damage to property or injury to person. This is always a possible defense. If there was no damage, then the accident should not be sufficient to support a hit and run if the defendant flees the scene.

What will happen if you flee the scene of an accident?

If the person that suffered property damage or personal injury, you can bet they will call the police and make a report. The police department has a special Hit and Run unit with investigators that specialize in finding drivers charged with fleeing the scene of an accident and then arresting them. The investigators will uncover surveillance video or search databases for any identifying information regarding the fleeing driver, such as vehicle license registrations. Usually, the other driver gets the defendant’s license plate number. Sometimes, the defendant will even stop first and give his identity, then leave the scene of the accident.

How serious is a hit and run?

Hit and run in Louisiana can be very serious, depending on the alleged facts. Most hit and run charges are misdemeanors. However, the amount of damage and whether or not the fleeing driver had insurance determine how serious the hit and run can be. For example, if the damage to the victim vehicle is severe and the fleeing driver doesn’t have insurance and the victim doesn’t have uninsured motorist coverage, there could be a potential restitution issue of tens of thousands of dollars.  The judge could just stick the defendant in jail for 6 months for that.

What is the difference between hit and run and leaving the scene of an accident?

Hit and run and leaving the scene of an accident are considered the same thing. The difference is that Hit and Run is the actual name of the criminal charge for leaving the scene of an accident without first giving identity and rendering reasonable aid, if the accident resulted in damage to person or property.

Can you prove a hit and run?

It is up to the prosecutor to prove the criminal charge of hit and run in court. Before it gets to that point, the police officer has already conducted the investigation based on the statements of witnesses at the scene of the accident, surveillance video, photos, cell phone videos, damage to the vehicles, and any statements from the defendant. Many times, after an accident, the victim driver will whip out her cell phone and start recording video of the defendant driver fleeing the scene. The video might pick up the license plate number which will be turned over to the police.

Do most hit and runs get caught?

I bet most hit and runs do not get caught. At least, it used to be that way. Now that everyone has cell phones with cameras and video, the victim driver’s usually get video of the defendant leaving the scene. Therefore, more people get caught for hit and run than they used to. After the victim calls the police, the police will discover the address of the defendant-driver from the DMV records and then go to his house and make the arrest.

Is it hit and run if you come back?

Yes, it is still a hit and run if you come back. The law requires that the driver immediately stop the vehicle and give his identity. Coming back hours later after sobering up isn’t going to prevent a charge.

Does full coverage cover hit and runs?

Yes, full coverage insurance, including collision coverage, will coverage damage to your vehicle if you’ve been hit by another vehicle that flees the scene. The insurance company could later try to subrogate its claim against the defendant. Many times, the prosecutor in a hit and run case may try to recover the deductible paid by the victim from the defendant in court, therefore, making the victim whole again.

Is hit and run worse than DUI?

In Louisiana, hit and run and DUI first offense both carry up to six months in jail. However, the judge could give the defendant a minimum of 10 days in jail if the prosecutor can prove the defendant did all of the following:

  1. consumed alcohol or used drugs or a controlled dangerous substance prior to the accident;
  2. the consumption of the alcohol, drugs, or a controlled dangerous substance contributed to the accident; and
  3. the driver failed to stop, give his identity, or render aid with the knowledge that his actions could affect an actual or potential present, past, or future criminal investigation or proceeding.

If you crash while drunk, you could be looking at a DUI. If you flee the scene, you could be looking at hit and run misdemeanor with the sentencing range of 10 days in jail up to six months only if it can be proven you were drunk at the time. So, if the police come to your house soon after you bailed from the scene and you’re drunk, they may try to claim you were drunk at the time of the accident. Other evidence could be the observations from other people at the scene of the accident. If they say you seemed intoxicated, that could be evidence against you if they testify at trial.

What should I do if I hit a sign?

If you hit a sign and do not call the police immediately, you could be facing hit and run charges if the police can determine that it was you who hit the sign. If you hit a sign, stop at the accident and call the police immediately to report the accident and give your identity.

Contact Louisiana Hit and Run defense attorney, Carl Barkemeyer, if you were arrested for fleeing the scene.


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DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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