Louisiana hit and run laws: Is leaving the scene of an accident a felony in the Pelican State?
- Louisiana hit and run laws: Is leaving the scene of an accident a felony in the Pelican State?
- Louisiana hit and run laws explained
- Misdemeanor hit and run Louisiana
- Louisiana hit and run laws: Felony offenses
- What must prosecutors prove after a hit and run in Louisiana?
- How is fault determined in Louisiana?
- How long do you have to report an accident in Louisiana?
- What is the penalty for a hit and run in Louisiana?
- Louisiana hit and run laws: mediation and arbitration
- Louisiana hit and run laws: defenses
Louisiana hit and run laws section RS 14:100 define a hit and run as the intentional failure to stop and render reasonable assistance to anyone who needs it. Additionally, if the victim dies, suffers a serious injury, or if the accused has priors, leaving the scene becomes a felony.
Quick take: Louisiana hit and run laws
- Felony hit and run occurs when a driver leaves the scene of an accident that results in injury or death.
- You have a legal obligation to render reasonable assistance to anyone who needs it.
- If the parties agree or if the court recommends it, you may settle an accident through mediation.
- Hitting an unoccupied parked vehicle then fleeing the scene is a misdemeanor.
- Charges escalate if the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or if the individual has prior convictions.
- Failure to report an accident within 24 hours is punishable by up to sixty days in jail.
Louisiana hit and run laws explained
In Louisiana, the circumstances leading up to the accident and what you do immediately afterward determine if the incident is a felony or misdemeanor. Under Louisiana hit and run laws, if you are involved in an accident, there are several obligations that you must fulfill. Note that fulfilling the obligations below does not prevent the victim from taking civil action. However, fulfilling the requirements may prevent criminal charges.
What are your legal obligations at the scene of an accident in Louisiana?
Under RS 14:100, Louisiana hit and run laws, you must:
- Immediately stop your vehicle at the scene of an accident.
- Render reasonable assistance to anyone who needs it.
- Give your name, address, and vehicle license number to the victim, property owner, or person in the struck vehicle.
- Report the accident to the police.
Misdemeanor hit and run Louisiana
Under Louisiana hit and run laws, misdemeanor hit and run occurs when a driver causes property damage. What if the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time? Section B of Louisiana hit and run laws reads in part, quote:
“Whoever commits the crime of hit-and-run driving where there is no death or serious bodily injury shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars, imprisoned for not less than ten days nor more than six months, or both when: (i) there is evidence that the vehicle operator consumed alcohol or used drugs or a controlled dangerous substance before the accident; (ii) the consumption of the alcohol, drugs, or a controlled dangerous substance contributed to the accident; and (iii) the driver failed to stop, give his identity, or render aid with the knowledge that his actions could affect an actual or potential present, past, or future criminal investigation or proceeding.”
In short, if the accident does not result in death or injury and the driver leaves the scene, that individual is guilty of a misdemeanor. Note, the charges may escalate for a second or third violation of the statute.
What happens if you hit a parked vehicle in Louisiana?
State law requires you to make a reasonable effort to locate the owner of the struck property. What if you cannot find the struck property owner or attendant?
You may leave a note on a conspicuous section of the struck vehicle containing your name, address, and contact information. Remember, leaving the scene without exchanging information with the owner of the struck vehicle or without notifying law enforcement is a misdemeanor.
Louisiana hit and run laws: Felony offenses
Leaving the scene of an accident that results in serious bodily injuries or death is a felony that may earn you prison time or probation. Meaning the judge has the option to suspend your sentence.
Do you have priors?
For a first offense, leaving the scene of an accident that causes death or serious injury is a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $5000. A hit and run escalates into a felony (punishable by up to 20 years and a $5000 fine) if you have prior convictions of crimes including vehicular negligent injuring, vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter, or DUI.
When does a hit-and-run turn into a felony in Louisiana?
As mentioned, if you have prior convictions or if the accident results in injury or death, prosecutors will likely pursue felony charges. However, the charges do not stop there. Meaning, Louisiana’s hit-and-run laws do not prevent prosecutors from pursuing other felony charges, including vehicular homicide or manslaughter.
Remember, the difference between vehicular homicide and manslaughter is intention. Thus, if you had a motive to hit and injure someone, you may face attempted homicide or homicide charges.
What must prosecutors prove after a hit and run in Louisiana?
Upon arrest, prosecutors in Louisiana must prove that the accused driver is directly responsible for the accident beyond a reasonable doubt. Remember, the statute works under the assumption that the driver knew or must have known of his involvement in an accident.
Because of that, if you leave the scene of an accident in Louisiana, you must have a good reason. For example, you were unaware of your involvement in an accident, or the victim suffered no injuries. How do you prove this?
If the victim uses words such as “I’m okay” or claims to have suffered no injuries, you may use that in your defense.
How is fault determined in Louisiana?
Louisiana is a “comparative fault state,” which means that your share of fault after a traffic collision lessens the amount you may recover. Remember, it is up to investigators to designate fault, not you, meaning you should not admit fault at the scene of an accident. Instead, what you should do is:
- Collect evidence and witness information if capable.
- Notify law enforcement immediately.
- Seek medical assistance and do not comment about your health until you get an expert opinion.
- Document everything or take pictures of the fleeing vehicle.
- Write down the color, make, and license plates of the fleeing vehicle.
- Do not threaten or harm the other driver.
If you hit someone or something, do the following:
- Contact your attorney if the accident results in injury, death, or property damage.
- Do not make any statements that prosecutors may use against you such as “it was my fault.”
- Call law enforcement and remain at the scene until they arrive.
- Exchange information with the victim or person in the vehicle.
- Take pictures and find witnesses if possible.
- Report the accident.
How long do you have to report an accident in Louisiana?
According to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, you have 24 hours to file a report after an accident. Failure to report is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $100 fine.
What is the penalty for a hit and run in Louisiana?
- Hit and run property damage, misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in prison, and a maximum fine of $500.
- DUI hit and run property damage, misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in prison, and a fine for a first offense.
- Hit and run, death or injury, a felony punishable by up to twenty years in prison with or without hard labor. The court may also impose a maximum fine of $5000.
Civil and administrative penalties for a hit and run in Louisiana
After a hit and run, the victim may sue the driver for negligence. To prove negligence in Louisiana, you must show that the accused owed you a duty of care, that individual failed to provide that duty of care, and that his failure was the result of your injury, loss, or property damage. For example, if the accused was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, you may use that as proof of negligence.
If you are the victim, you may sue the at-fault party for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, reduced earning capacity, and so on.
Note: That in Louisiana, there is a mandatory license suspension period for anyone convicted for a hit and run. Furthermore, the court may impose punitive damages and reinstatement fees.
Consequently, if you have been involved in a hit and run, we suggest contacting a lawyer immediately.
Louisiana hit and run laws: mediation and arbitration
Instead of going to court, the parties involved in an accident or hit and run may solve the issue through mediation or arbitration. Depending on the facts presented, the court may recommend mediation. Therefore, we suggest consulting with an attorney to determine if mediation is the right course of action.
Louisiana hit and run laws: defenses
As mentioned, in Louisiana, an accident becomes a crime if anyone involved knowingly leaves the scene without exchanging contact and insurance information or without providing reasonable assistance to anyone that needs it.
Because of that, if you leave the scene of an accident, start building your defense strategy immediately, for example:
- Did you have reason to fear for your safety?
- Did the victim refuse to exchange information or claim to be in good health?
- Was you -leaving the scene- intentional or voluntary?
The point is, if you choose to leave the scene, you should have a solid reason to back your decision. It is also worth noting that prosecutors may use anything you say against you, so avoid making any statements that may shift fault to you.
In short, you will need an experienced attorney to check the facts of the case and come up with a suitable defense strategy. So, contact one immediately!
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