Accidents happen. Yet some people reserve a special kind of disdain for hit and run drivers who leave the scene of an accident. This can happen after a minor fender bender or even after a fatal drunk driving crash. The circumstances may be wildly different, but most hit and runs have one very basic thing in common—panic.
After being involved in an accident, it is normal to go into a state of shock. Adrenaline kicks in, panic takes over, and a primal part of the brain goes into the classic fight or flight response mode. Unfortunately for everyone involved, even though flight is a very typical reaction in situations of extreme panic, leaving the scene of an accident comes with serious legal consequences, especially if the driver was intoxicated or another driver or pedestrian was injured.
If you recently fled the scene of an accident, you are likely feeling a mixture of confusing emotions including guilt, fear, and anger. Maybe even relief. But in the vast majority of cases, it is only a matter of time before a hit and run driver is identified. There are traffic cameras and smartphones everywhere, and all it takes is a portion of a license plate or a single photo to lead the police to your front door. If you’ve recently been involved in a hit and run accident in Atlanta, Georgia, you should seek consult with a criminal defense law firm that won’t judge you. Our Atlanta criminal defense attorneys work with car crash, truck accident, pedestrian accident, and hit and run drivers to make sure their rights are protected.
Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and you deserve Atlanta criminal defense lawyers who understand where you’re coming from. If you’ve recently been charged with a hit and run in Decatur or Atlanta, Georgia, you should call Pak and McRae Law, LLC, and schedule a free consultation to review all of your legal options.
Criminal Penalties for a Hit and Run Accident in Georgia: Misdemeanors and Felony Charges
Drivers in Decatur, Atlanta, or anywhere else in Georgia have several legal responsibilities after being involved in an accident. This is why you could be charged for a hit and run even if you didn’t actually cause the accident. Not only are you legally required to stop after an accident, you must also provide your name, valid contact information, and your vehicle registration. Drivers are also legally required to render aid or call 911 if another driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist was injured.
If you don’t abide by these rules of the road, you could be facing serious penalties. For minor car accidents with no injuries, hit and run penalties are a misdemeanor in Georgia. If convicted of a misdemeanor hit and run, you’ll be facing $300 to $1,000 in fines, probation, driver’s license suspension, and up to 12 months in prison.
For more serious accidents, a Georgia hit and run accident can also be charged as a felony that comes with up to five years in prison. In addition to the criminal charges, drivers can also be subject to civil lawsuits from victims or their families.
Hit and Run Accidents in the United States: How Common Are They?
Precise statistics on hit and run accidents are surprisingly hard to come by today. One of the most thorough reports we’ve been able to find comes from a 2015 report in the Baltimore Sun, which examined why hit and run accidents happen in the first place.
In the article “Hit-and-Run Drivers Not Uncommon, but Not Well Understood,” the paper found that:
Those who study human behavior say the drivers likely experience a flood of emotions including fear, shame and guilt, which overwhelm their sense of self-control. That can be made worse by alcohol, a factor in about 30 percent of traffic fatalities nationally.
“Rational decision-making is clearly difficult in an intoxicated state, particularly as blood-alcohol levels increase,” said Carlo DiClemente, a psychology professor at University of Maryland, Baltimore County who studies addictive behavior. “Fear and escape motivations kick in and, without good executive functioning, make flight more probable.”
So how common is it for a driver to flee the scene of an accident?
Federal data shows that the number of fatal hit and run accidents has stayed steady over the past 30 years, with about 1,600 people losing their lives in these accidents annually. Alcohol can also be a major contributing factor in the decision to leave the scene, and experts say alcohol is involved in 30% of fatal car accidents.
According to the Baltimore Sun and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, hit and run accidents account for about four percent of all traffic deaths, while the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says most of these types of accidents occur on weekends.
What to Do After Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Any legal professional will likely give you the same advice if you have recently left the scene of an accident, and that’s to turn yourself in. Not just because that’s the right thing to do legally and ethically, but because most hit and run drivers are caught eventually, and the consequences will be much more severe if the police find you first. If you are wondering when to get a criminal defense attorney, the answer is as soon as possible.
Jury members are not likely to look kindly on a hit and run driver who tried to cover up their actions. If you’re afraid that you can’t afford an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer, you can still schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. If you’ve recently been charged with a hit and run offense, you may be running out of time to take the necessary steps to defend yourself.
Most people believe they are entitled to a lawyer if they cannot afford one, but the reality is often quite different. In the United States, the average public defender would need 1.5 years (or 3,035 work hours) to accomplish one-year worth of cases. The situation is even worse in states like Georgia where public defender’s offices are severely underfunded. Plus, nearly 60% of states won’t even let public defenders turn down cases, even if they literally have no time to work on the case.
That means you need to be proactive about finding Atlanta criminal defense attorneys who will stand up for your rights.
About Pak and McRae Law, LLC’s Decatur Criminal Defense Attorneys
Our criminal defense law firm was created on the simple but powerful idea that being charged with a crime shouldn’t ruin the rest of your life. Our co-founder Gunner Pak is a former Assistant District Attorney, which means he’s familiar with the inner workings of the court system and the people who run it. Many public defenders will tell you that pleading guilty is your only option, but you deserve a vigorous defense and our Atlanta attorneys who will fight for the best possible outcome for your case.
If you or someone you care about has been involved in a hit and run accident in or near Atlanta or Decatur, Georgia, then the worst thing you can do is nothing at all.
In Hollywood movies, hit and run drivers are depicted as cold-hearted villains, but we know that’s not the case in a vast majority of traffic accidents. Don’t let one mistake ruin you or your family’s future.
You deserve an advocate, a Decatur criminal defense law firm that will take your side, until the very end. For a free initial consultation, contact our Pak and McRae Law, LLC today.