How can I defend myself against a hit and run charge?

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How can I defend myself against a hit and run charge?

I was involved in an accident. The driver in front of me stopped abruptly and, as I attempted to do the same, I found myself slipping on black ice. I veered right and contacted a tree. There was little damage to my car and none significant to the tree. I then noticed I was blocking traffic. This was my first accident, so not knowing what to do, I drove to the nearest safe parking area about half a block away. As I was filing the police the came up behind me. I was charged with hit and run.

Asked on February 26, 2014 under Criminal Law, Wisconsin


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

How is "Hit-and-Run" Defined?

Hit and run is usually defined as failing to stop and provide one’s name, contact information, and license number when involved in a vehicle collision. Most state laws require people to do this if they have been involved in any type of car, motorcycle, truck, or even bicycle accident. It’s also required even if the collision didn’t involve another vehicle but involved property or a pedestrian instead.

Hit and run also covers situations where the other party is not actually present at the time of collision. A common example of this is where a driver strikes an unoccupied car in a parking lot. In this situation, the driver may need to leave a note with their information on the damaged vehicle, and should file a police report when given the opportunity to do so. Hit and run is also common due to drivers having no insurance.

Hit and run statutes are sometimes called “Phantom Vehicle Laws” in some areas.

What Are Some Hit and Run Defenses?

Some common defenses to hit and run charges can include:

  • Emergency situations: In some cases, hit and run is excusable if there is an ongoing emergency in progress, or if the accident was part of an attempt to prevent an emergency. However, courts usually judge these situations very strictly.
  • Involuntary Intoxication: Voluntary intoxication usually isn’t an excuse for hit and run (such as when a person knowingly engages in drunk driving). However, involuntary intoxication can sometimes be a defense, especially where the intoxication has impaired the person’s consciousness or ability to make reasonable decisions.  An example is where the person was given the wrong medication that had negative effects on them.
  • Lack of knowledge: Generally, the defendant needs to be aware that they caused an injury or damage in order to be held liable. If they didn’t know that they caused an injury or property damage, and then left the scene, it may be difficult to hold them liable. However, they can  be found negligent or even reckless if they should have known about the damage given the circumstances.

Thus, hit and run is somewhat difficult to defend against, especially if it’s clear that the person should have stopped and responded to the accident. Such charges typically require the assistance of an experienced lawyer.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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