Rittgers & Rittgers, Attorneys at Law
Get Your Consultation Today
513-932-2115

To protect your safety during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, we offer telephone and video conferences, in place of face-to-face meetings. Please contact our office today to set up a remote consultation. For more information, read our blog post.

Can I Leave Leave The Scene Of A Car Accident Before The Police Arrive Or Will I Be Charged With A Crime?

It depends on the facts of your case.

What crime can I be charged with if I leave the scene of a car accident?

Generally, you can be charged with "leaving the scene of an accident," or sometimes called a "hit skip," under Ohio Revised Code section 4549.02 if:

In the case of a motor vehicle accident or collision with persons or property on a public road or highway, the operator of the motor vehicle, having knowledge of the accident or collision, immediately shall stop the operator's motor vehicle at the scene of the accident or collision. The operator shall remain at the scene of the accident or collision until the operator has given the operator's name and address and, if the operator is not the owner, the name and address of the owner of that motor vehicle, together with the registered number of that motor vehicle, to all of the following:

(a) Any person injured in the accident or collision ;

(b) The operator, occupant, owner, or attendant of any motor vehicle damaged in the accident or collision;

(c) The police officer at the scene of the accident or collision.

What level of crime can I be charged with if I leave the scene of a car accident?

R.C. 4549.02 has multiple sections that provide for charging someone with a misdemeanor or a felony offense for leaving the scene of a car accident. The distinguishing factors between being charged with a misdemeanor (punishment is less than a year in jail) and a felony (punishment is more than a year in prison) are 1) the severity of the injuries caused by the collision, and 2) if the driver that left the scene knew that an injury occurred.

  • Minor or no injuries: misdemeanor of the first degree
  • Serious physical harm occurred: felony of the fifth degree
  • Defendant knew serious physical harm occurred: felony of the fourth degree
  • Death occurred: felony of the third degree
  • Defendant knew death occurred: felony of the second degree

What does Ohio law R.C. 4549.02 require me to do if I have been in a car accident?

First, the law is clear that if you know you were involved in a car accident or collision, then you need to immediately stop your vehicle at the scene. That does not mean you can finish your errand, or even run home to get your insurance card first. You must stop immediately at the scene once you know that you are in an accident or collision. If you drive away after you know you were involved in a car accident or collision, you will be charged with "leaving the scene of an accident."

Second, after stopping your vehicle at the scene of the accident or collision, you must remain at the scene of the accident until you have provided all of the information required by law.

If you are the owner and operator of the vehicle that was involved in the accident or collision, you must provide (1) your name and address and (2) the registered number of your vehicle to all of the following people:

  • The operator, owner, occupant, or a person attending to a vehicle that was damaged in the accident or collision; AND
  • Any person injured during the accident or collision; AND
  • The police officer at the scene of the accident or collision

If you are not the owner of the vehicle that was involved in the accident or collision, but you were operating the vehicle, you must provide (1) your name and address, (2) the registered number of the vehicle you were operating, and (3) the name and address of the owner of the vehicle you were operating to all of the following people:

  • The operator, owner, occupant, or a person attending to a vehicle that was damaged in the accident or collision; AND
  • Any person injured during the accident or collision; AND
  • The police officer at the scene of the accident or collision

What if I am too injured or the other driver is too injured so that I cannot exchange the necessary information?

If the other driver is injured and cannot comprehend and record your necessary information, R.C. 4549.02(A)(2) requires that (1) you call the police to provide (a) the location of the accident or collision, (b) your name and address, and (c) the registered number of the vehicle you were operating; and (2) that you remain at the scene of the accident or collision until a police officer arrives unless you are removed from the scene by emergency services (i.e. you don't have to remain if you are transported to the hospital by an ambulance).

If you are too injured to exchange information, then the other driver should call the police with all of the information described above and wait on scene until a police officer arrives unless removed from the scene by emergency services.

What if the accident or collision was with an unoccupied or unattended vehicle (e.g. a parked car)?

If you collided with an occupied or unattended vehicle, then R.C. 4549.02(A)(3) requires that you attach your name and address, and the registered number of the vehicle you were operating in an easily visible place on the damaged vehicle. If you are not the owner of the vehicle that you were operating, remember that you also need to leave the name and address of the owner of the vehicle as well.

What does "registered number of the vehicle" mean?

A very good question as R.C. 4549.02 does not provide any help on what the ambiguous term "registered number" means. Luckily, in January 2020, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in State v. Bryant, that "the 'registered number' of a motor vehicle' as used in R.C. 4549.02(A)(1), is the license-plate number associated with the vehicle." (emphasis added).

The Ohio Supreme Court also stated in Bryant that allowing the other driver to take a picture of your license plate satisfies R.C. 4549.02's requirement of providing the registered number of your vehicle to the other operator.

When am I allowed to leave the scene of an accident or collision?

The Ohio Supreme Court also discussed this question in State v. Bryant. The Court held that it is not a violation of R.C. 4549.02 if a driver leaves the scene, before the police arrive, if that driver had no knowledge that the police had been alerted of the accident. In other words, as long as you provide the necessary information to the all of the people listed in R.C. 4549.02, you can leave without waiting for the police, so long as you have no knowledge that the police have been contacted about the accident. (i.e. you can leave before they have been contacted or if they have not been contacted so long as you have provided all of the required information to all required parties).

However, remember, that if you know of any injuries that prevent the exchange of required information, you must contact the police and wait at the scene until an officer arrives at the scene.

The Supreme Court in Bryant made it clear that if you know that the police have been notified, then you must wait for a reasonable period of time for an officer to arrive. The Court also made it clear that if you know the other driver or another person is calling or about to call the police, you must wait a reasonable period of time for an officer to arrive.

What if I did not know there was an accident or collision?

"Leaving the scene of an accident" requires that you have knowledge of an accident or collision in order to be guilty of the offense. In a recent case in Hamilton County, Rittgers & Rittgers attorney Neal Schuett was able to have his client's charge for "leaving the scene of an accident" dismissed because the State of Ohio had no evidence that the defendant had knowledge that an accident occurred. It's always important that you discuss your case with an experienced trial attorney before you go to court.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
  1. Distinguished AV | LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell | Peer Review Rated For Ethical Standards and Legal Ability
  2. Super Lawyers
  3. AVVO Rating 10.0 Superb
  4. Super Lawyers Rising Stars
  5. Million Dollar Advocates Forum
  6. Multi Million Dollar Advocates Forum
  7. The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trial Lawyers
  8. The National Trial Lawyers | Top 40 Under 40

Get Your Consultation Today. Call 513-932-2115.

Rittgers & Rittgers answers its phones 24/7. Call us anytime to secure your consultation with one of our award-winning lawyers. You can rely on us for elite representation from our deliberately small, family-run law firm.

Rittgers & Rittgers, Attorneys at Law

Lebanon Office
12 East Warren Street
Lebanon, Ohio 45036

Phone: 513-932-2115
Fax: 513-934-2201
Map & Directions

West Chester Office
9078 Union Centre Blvd.
Suite 350
West Chester, OH 45069

Phone: 513-932-9949
West Chester Law Office

Cincinnati Office
3734 Eastern Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45226

Phone: 513-932-7375
Map & Directions

Florence Office
7310 Turfway Road, Suite 550
Florence, KY 41042

Kentucky Law Office

Oxford Office
121 West High Street
Oxford, OH 45056

Phone: 513-524-5000
Fax: 513-524-5001
Map & Directions

Email Us Today

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy

Email Us Today