an injured man and a car leaving the scene of an accident

What Are the Charges for Leaving the Scene of an Accident?

Minnesota law considers leaving the scene of an accident a hit-and-run. Depending on the injury or damages caused, you may face gross misdemeanor or felony charges for fleeing the scene. 

an injured man and a car leaving the scene of an accident

It may also result in license suspension, loss of voting rights, difficulty finding employment, and loss of the right to own a firearm. A criminal defense lawyer may evaluate your legal options, conduct additional investigations, and build a robust defense strategy to have the charges reduced or dropped altogether.  

What Is Considered Hit-and-Run in Minnesota?

Under Minnesota hit-and-run laws, leaving an accident scene is a criminal offense. The accident may involve a fixed object, another car, or a pedestrian. The law requires you to stop your vehicle, identify yourself, and render help if anyone needs it.

If the collision leads to injury or death, the drivers of both vehicles should find a safe place near the accident scene and stop. The law requires drivers to remain at the accident scene in the event of an accident involving injury, death, or property damage. The drivers should stop at a safe place that does not obstruct traffic flow.

You must share your name, date of birth, vehicle registration number, and contact information (phone number, email, or mailing address). If you cannot share this information after the accident, you will have 72 hours to give it to the other accident victim or a police officer. 

Information on your auto liability insurance coverage may help the victim seek compensation for injuries or damages. So, you must share your insurer’s name and address on the day of the accident or after 72 hours.

Does the Minnesota Hit-and-Run Law Apply to Unattended Vehicles and Fixed Objects?

The Minnesota hit-and-run statute covers collisions involving unattended vehicles and fixed objects. As such, you must stop at the collision scene if your vehicle hits an unattended vehicle. The law also mandates you to find out what was hit.

If it’s clear that the accident caused physical damage to the unattended vehicle, you have to locate and alert the vehicle’s owner or driver. You also need to give this information to a police officer. The report should include your name, address, vehicle registration details, and insurance information.

For a collision involving a fixed object, you must locate and report the accident to the property’s owner or manager. Give that person your personal identifiable details (name and address) and vehicle registration number. Remember to also notify the police about the collision.

Hit-and-Run Accidents Involving a Vehicle Not Operated by the Owner

You must still follow Minnesota laws on hit-and-run accidents when you are involved in a crash using a vehicle that is not yours. In such a scenario, you must have the owner’s consent, whether implied or expressed, before reporting the incident. You must also share your personally identifiable information with the victim and police officer.

Notices of collision in a hit-and-run car accident must be reported to the police department operating locally if the crash happens in a municipality. Notify the county sheriff’s office or state patrol in the event of an accident on a highway.

Teen drivers convicted for leaving the accident scene face harsher penalties under Vanessa’s Law. Minnesota legislators passed Vanessa’s Law for drivers under 21 years charged with accident-related offenses involving controlled substances or alcohol.

Consequences of Leaving the Scene of an Accident 

You will have a permanent criminal record when charged with hit-and-run in Minnesota. The criminal offense may be classified as a misdemeanor or felony based on the specific details of the case and available evidence.

You risk facing felony hit-and-run charges if the accident victim (pedestrian, passenger, or driver) dies. A felony conviction will attract up to a $5,000 fine or up to three years in prison, or both.

The penalty for a hit-and-run resulting in great bodily harm includes up to a $4,000 fine or an imprisonment term of up to two years, or both. Great bodily harm is an injury likely to lead to impairment, loss of function, permanent disfigurement, or death.

The penalties for a gross misdemeanor hit-and-run include up to a $3,000 fine or up to a one-year prison term, or both. The hit-and-run will qualify as a gross misdemeanor if it causes substantial bodily injury. Substantial bodily injury causes fractures or temporary loss of function to body organs.

If no one sustains injuries, the offense is treated as a misdemeanor. Penalties for a misdemeanor hit-and-run in Minnesota include up to a $1,000 fine or a 90-day jail time, or both.

Other consequences of failure to stop after an accident include loss of driver’s license, loss of voting rights, and loss of the right to firearm possession. Getting a job with a hit-and-run conviction in Minnesota might also be challenging.

Benefits of Having a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Navigating the justice system as an offender can be daunting if you do not have legal help. Laws on criminal charges, such as hit-and-run, are usually updated over time. So, it is hard for someone without a legal background to understand how the laws apply to a particular case.

Criminal defense lawyers are familiar with both the state and federal justice system. They can help you navigate the local court regulations and avoid the consequences of disobeying court orders. 

With the help of a felony lawyer, you can negotiate a deal with the prosecution team when facing felony charges. Depending on the offense, the process may involve agreeing to lesser sentences or reduced charges. 

Since criminal cases have varied outcomes, you need to understand what will likely happen at each stage of the case. A lawyer can provide you with this information. A careful review of the information will help you decide if accepting a plea bargain can benefit you. 

An attorney may also help you avoid future run-ins with the justice system. You may count on one for legal advice on understanding your rights as an alleged offender, which can help you to avoid incriminating yourself or taking other actions that might affect your case. 

A lawyer also handles time-consuming tasks, such as legal research, evidence gathering, and interviewing witnesses. The lawyer files motions or petitions with the court when necessary. The lawyer also hires and oversees the work of investigators if your case requires independent investigation. With a lawyer on your side, you may have a higher chance of securing a favorable outcome in a criminal case for leaving the scene of an accident.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Knowing how to choose a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis, MN, can help you hire a lawyer who will prepare an effective defense strategy and fight for the best result from your case. One of the crucial tips when selecting a criminal defense lawyer is to vet those with relevant experience in cases like yours. You can only do this when you thoroughly understand the charges you are facing.
People anticipating an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, might ask, “What is the role of a defense attorney during an arrest?” A skilled criminal defense attorney can explain your options, ensure the police follow the rules, and protect your rights. The attorney will build a solid defense, talk to the prosecutor, and fight for your best interests.
Knowing when to hire a criminal lawyer for your case in Minnesota can help protect your constitutional rights and turn the odds in your favor. You should retain a criminal lawyer immediately after learning you are under investigation, get arrested, or are charged with a crime. Seasoned criminal lawyers understand the criminal justice system, can build a winning defense strategy, and aggressively push for a positive outcome of your case.