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Former Traffic Court Judge Serving New York and New Jersey

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Former Traffic Court Judge

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How can you avoid a hit-and-run charge?

You were pulling out of a parking space when you realized you hadn't given yourself enough room. You scraped the car next to you, and when you looked at the damage, it was fairly obvious that there had been contact between your vehicles.

Now, you're not sure what you should do. If you stay, you don't know how long you'll be waiting for someone to arrive. If you leave, you don't want to get charged with a hit-and-run. What should you do?

Normally, if someone is in the vehicle and gets hurt, you need to stay at the scene and wait for police. This is different, though. Typically, the law requires that you notify the owner of the vehicle. The law doesn't dictate how you do that, but it does say that if you can't find the owner, you can leave a note in a conspicuous place on the vehicle. The note needs to include your name, address and a statement on what happened.

Don't think that's enough, though. It's a good idea to contact the police after the crash, even if you already left a note. That way, there is a very low risk that you could be accused of a hit-and-run crash.

What happens if you leave without leaving a note?

It depends on your state, but most states fine the person who damaged the vehicle and left the scene. Some states can charge you with a misdemeanor, which could result in a jail sentence. If you're not sure about your circumstances, your attorney can help you learn more about your options.

Source: FindLaw, "Is it Hit and Run if You Leave a Note?," Le Trinh, accessed Nov. 08, 2017

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