Can you be charged with leaving the scene of an accident if you did it unintentionally?

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Can you be charged with leaving the scene of an accident if you did it unintentionally?

When leaving a party my 18 year-old son backed into what he thought was a tree in the yard. A few days later he received a phone call from the father of the young girl who threw the party saying that he had hit her car; he wanted full payment of damages or would seek criminal charges. Are there any criminal charges that can be filed?

Asked on April 27, 2011 under Criminal Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) Criminal acts generally require criminal intent, so often, if someone is unaware of what transpired, he or she will often not be criminal liable. That does not mean that he or she can't be charged, such as if there is either reason to believe he or she knew, or the authorities are simply unsure and bring charges in part to determine what happened (investigation, testimony, etc.); it does mean that this is a defense that could be raised.

2) In theory, it is illegal to threaten to bring charges unless paid; whether someone has a civil claim against you and whether there may be criminal liability  are independent, and no one is supposed to use the criminal system to threaten others--which does not mean it does not happen.

You and your son should consult with an attorney who can evaluate all the facts in detail and advise as to your best course of action.


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