September 28, 2023
Accidents are scary, especially when someone gets seriously injured or even dies. The response people have when involved in a serious accident runs the gamut – from being frozen in fear to actively fleeing the scene.
If you choose the latter, though, you may be making more legal problems for yourself than you think, as one man found out on New Year’s Eve.
A 23-year-old Aurora man was arrested for an accident that killed a three-year-old boy. He fled the scene of the accident and was apprehended later, as the investigation into the accident continued.
Committing a hit and run not only opens you up to criminal charges but civil charges as well. Here’s what you need to know about fleeing the scene of an accident in Colorado and the criminal penalties you could face.
Accident Laws in Colorado
Under Colorado law, drivers are required to make a police report if they’re involved in an accident. When in an accident, you must stop and stay at the scene while the police take the report of the crash.
You are allowed to leave the scene of an accident to call and make a report if you do not have a phone on you, but you must come back to the scene after you’ve called.
A hit and run accident is a crime in Colorado and if someone is seriously injured or even killed, you face serious penalties.
Penalties for Hit and Run in Colorado
If you do leave the scene of an accident in Colorado, then you can face criminal penalties depending on whether the other vehicle was occupied, whether there was damage to another vehicle or property, and whether anyone was injured or killed.
In Colorado, an injury is defined as any type of physical or mental impairment, illness, or physical pain. Serious bodily injury is considered harm that carries with it a significant threat of death, lasting disfigurement, or loss of function to any part of the body or organ.
Learn more below about the various activities associated with a hit and run accident and the penalties associated with each.
Hitting an Unoccupied Vehicle
If the hit and run involved an accident with an unoccupied vehicle and no report was made and no notice provided to the owner of the property, then you can be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. That can include penalties of up to three months in jail and fines of $300.
Damage to Property
If you leave the scene of an accident that results in damage to property, then it is also a Class 2 misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to three months in jail and fines of $300.
Leaving the scene of an accident that has resulted in injury to another person is a Class 1 misdemeanor. It can result in penalties of up to 12 months in jail and fines of $1,000.
Serious Bodily Injury
A hit and run that results in someone sustaining a serious bodily injury is considered a Class 4 felony in Colorado. It can result in penalties of up to six years behind bars and $500,000 in fines.
Additional Consequences of a Hit and Run
Criminal penalties aren’t the only thing you can face if you flee from the scene of an accident. Participating in a hit and run can also result in civil penalties such as the loss of your license or the addition of 12 points to your driving record in Colorado. You may also be ordered by the court to pay restitution to the victims for repairs to their property, losses they may suffer, or medical bills that resulted from the injuries they sustained in the accident.
The Statute of Limitations
There is a statute of limitations for hit and run prosecutions in Colorado, or the time that prosecutors have to charge suspects with hit and runs.
The statute of limitations depends on the specific charges that can be filed against a person.
- Class 3 felonies – 5 years statute of limitations
- Class 4 felonies – 3 years after the accident
- Misdemeanors – 1 year after the accident
The best course of action is always going to be to stop and do what the law obligates you to do after an accident. If you happen to panic and flee the scene, then you should contact an attorney to see how to proceed with the case and how to turn yourself in to the police to report the accident after the fact.
Understanding your rights as well as your duties when involved in a hit and run is crucial to making sure your case has the best outcome.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020 and is Lead Counsel rated.