In 2021, there were 121,345 motor vehicle accidents in Arizona. Of those accidents, 16,988 were hit-and-runs, and 88 of those hit-and-runs involved fatalities. A hit-and-run is considered a serious crime.
However, is a hit-and-run a felony in Phoenix, Arizona? Possibly. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the case.
In this blog post, we will discuss what constitutes a hit and run in Phoenix and when it can be classified as a felony. We will also outline some of the consequences of such an offense and how to fight back if you’re facing these charges. Read on to learn more about whether a hit and run is a felony in Phoenix, Arizona.
What Is a Hit and Run?
According to Arizona law, drivers are required to give assistance and information after an accident. What does this mean? It means you’re required to stop your car after an accident.
It also means you’re required to show your driver’s license and exchange information with everyone involved. If someone is injured in the accident, you’re required to give reasonable assistance.
Hit-and-run laws apply to both attended and unattended vehicles.
Why Do People Leave the Scene of an Accident?
Why do people leave the scene of an accident? The reasons aren’t always clear; however, we’ll discuss a few of the common reasons people leave.
When someone is involved in a hit-and-run, they may leave the scene of the accident out of fear. They may be afraid of what will happen if they stay, or they may be afraid that the other driver will retaliate.
Lack of Insurance
One of the most common reasons people leave the scene of an accident is because they don’t have insurance. In many cases, people will hit another car and then drive off because they can’t afford to pay for the damages. On the flip side of things, some people worry about their insurance rates increasing.
However, if you’re caught leaving the scene of an accident, you could be facing some serious penalties.
Confusion or Panic
In addition, people often leave the scene due to confusion or panic. They may not know what to do, or they may be afraid of getting in trouble.
Intoxication or Under the Influence of Drugs
When someone is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, they are not in a state to make clear and concise decisions. As a result, they may leave the scene of an accident before exchanging information with the other driver or waiting for law enforcement to arrive. While this may seem like a smart move at the time, it can have serious legal consequences.
When Is a Hit and Run a Felony in Arizona?
If you are involved in a hit-and-run accident in Arizona, the severity of the charges you face will depend on several factors. If the accident resulted in only property damage, you would likely be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if the accident resulted in injuries or death, you will be charged with a felony.
In addition, the type of hit-and-run you are charged with will also affect the severity of the charges. A misdemeanor hit and run is defined as leaving the scene of an accident without exchanging information with the other driver or without rendering aid to anyone who was injured. A felony hit and run is defined as leaving the scene of an accident knowing that someone was injured or killed.
The Penalties for a Hit and Run in Arizona
The penalties for a misdemeanor hit and run in Arizona include up to four months in jail and/or a fine of up to $750. The penalties for a felony hit and run are in part due to the circumstances of the accident and prior convictions.
Class 2 Felony
A class 2 felony is when a driver causes and leaves an accident that results in a serious injury or death.
Class 2 felonies can include up to 12.5 years of prison time. However, for people with prior felony convictions, that time can change to up to 35 years. Driving privileges are also suspended for ten years.
Class 3 Felony
Even if you didn’t cause the accident, you could still get charged with a hit-a-run. If you leave the scene of an accident you didn’t cause that involves a serious injury or death; you can face a class 3 felony.
In this circumstance, you can get probation, but you can also receive up to 8.75 years in prison. If you’ve been convicted of prior felonies, that jail time can go up to 25 years. In this circumstance, your license will get revoked for five years.
Class 5 Felony
When leaving an accident with a non-serious injury, you can still receive felony charges. In this case, you would be charged with a class 5 felony.
Penalties can include probation or up to 2.5 years in prison. However, if you have prior felony convictions, that time can increase to 7.5 years in prison. If convicted, your license will be revoked for three years.
The penalties discussed above are the basics of what you may face. However, in certain circumstances, you may face other consequences as well.
If you’re charged with more than one crime related to that same accident, you could have additional penalties. In this circumstance, you would have to serve the sentences for each crime consecutively.
For example, if you were charged with a DUI and hit and run, and you’re convicted of both, the time stacks. So if you’re given three years for the hit and run and two years for the DUI, you’ll serve five years.
Drug and Alcohol Treatment
Did your accident involve drugs or alcohol? In those circumstances, drug and alcohol treatment will get mandated by the court.
In Arizona, getting charged with a felony can lead to other consequences. These include some of the following:
- Loss of government assistance
- Loss of the right to bear arms
- Loss of civil rights
- Inability to obtain or maintain professional jobs or licenses
What to Do if You Are Involved in a Hit and Run
If you are involved in a hit-and-run, it is essential to stay calm and contact the police as soon as possible. It would help if you also tried to get as much information about the other driver as possible, including their license plate number and vehicle description.
If you have any damage to your vehicle, be sure to take pictures so that you can show them to the police. It is also a good idea to call your insurance company right away so that they can help you with the claims process.
Potential Defenses for Hit and Run Charges in Arizona
If you’re involved in a hit-and-run there are several defenses that the person getting charged might use. These include the following.
Lack of Knowledge Defense
If you are facing charges for a hit and run in Phoenix, Arizona, one possible defense is that you did not know that you had hit someone or caused damage. This is sometimes called the “lack of knowledge” defense. To successfully use this defense, you must be able to show that you did not know and could not have reasonably been expected to know that you had hit someone or caused damage.
For example, if you were driving at night and someone ran out in front of your car, you might not have seen them and therefore would not have known that you hit them. Or, if your car was damaged in a parking lot and you did not see the damage until later, you might not have known that you caused it. If you can show that you did not know and could not have reasonably been expected to know that you hit someone or caused damage, then the charges against you may be reduced or dropped altogether.
Lack of Criminal Intent Defense
This defense can be described as, “I didn’t mean to do it.” If you are involved in an accident and leave to pull over to a safe location and later return, but the other parties are gone, this is a possible defense.
This defense can be used if you have to leave the scene to protect yourself. This can include fear of an irate driver or fear of robbery, sexual violence, or other types of violence.
Find the Lawyer You Need to Get the Compensation You Deserve
So, is a hit-and-run a felony? In Phoenix, Arizona, it is classified as a felony in certain circumstances and may result in hefty fines, imprisonment, or both.
If you’re involved in a hit-and-run, it is best to contact an experienced attorney who can assist you with getting the compensation you deserve. Get a free case evaluation today.