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Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Leaving the scene of an accident in Massachusetts is another of the many crimes set out in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24. The statute is virtually non-comprehensible and extremely difficult for a lay person to read. As to leaving the scene, there are essentially three crimes for which you can be charged, each of which his significant differences in terms of proof and potential penalty.
- Leaving the Scene of Property Damage
The law states that if you get into an accident, whether with another car or some other type of property and you fail to make known your name, address and vehicle registration you are guilty of a crime. To sustain a conviction of this offense the prosecutor must prove five things beyond a reasonable doubt. 1) that you operated a motor vehicle, 2) that it was on a public way, 3) that during the course of such operation you collided with or injured in some way another vehicle or property, 4) that you knew that you had done so and 5) that after doing so you failed to stop, give your name, home address and the registration number of your car.
Fine of $20 to $200
Jail sentence for between 2 weeks and 2 years
- Leaving the Scene of Personal Injury Not Resulting in Death
The law pertaining to this crime is virtually identical to leaving the scene of property damage except that it adds the element of causing injury to another person.
Fine of $500 to $1,000
Jail sentence for between 6 months and 2 years
- Leaving the Scene of Personal Injury Resulting in Death
Again, this crime has similar elements to the two crimes referenced above. The significant difference is that that accident her results in the death of another person and that the defendant must have left the scene in order “to avoid prosecution or evade apprehension”. This is a felony. Massachusetts district courts do not have jurisdiction over this crime.
Fine of $1,000 to $5,000
State prison sentence of 2 ½ to 10 years or jail for 1 to 2 ½ years There is a minimum mandatory 1 year sentence that must be served
This statute was enacted to enable anyone who was injured or whose property was damaged to a motor vehicle to get immediate and accurate information about the driver of the other vehicle. Your obligations under this statute are not satisfied by stopping at a remote place or being passively willing to answer questions. The statute imposes on you an affirmative duty to stop and make known the pertinent information.
The statute was created for another reason as well. People who operate motor vehicle while intoxicated have a tendency to flee after an accident to avoid prosecution. Most judges and prosecutors suspect that people who leave the scene of an accident without stopping and making themselves known did so because they should not have been driving. Thus, even though you might avoid the consequence of a drunk driving prosecution you are still looking at a severe penalty. Keep this in mind as well. The registry will take your license if you are convicted of leaving the scene after property damage, personal injury or death.