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Hit & Run: Leaving The Scene of An Accident

Minneapolis Criminal Defense Lawyer

There are things about leaving the scene of an accident, popularly known a hit and run, that might just surprise you. Three things, in fact.

What is the legal definition of a hit and run? Hit and run statutes technically address “leaving the scene of an accident.” Minnesota Statute 169.09 makes it a crime for any driver involved in a traffic accident to leave the scene before determining if there were injuries and property damage. The law requires the driver involved in a collision to stop the vehicle as soon as possible and investigate whether there was property damage and especially whether the other driver, passengers, or nearby pedestrians sustained injuries or died. If the driver determines there was damage to the other vehicle, the driver must remain at the scene until the drivers exchange information. They have to do this without obstructing other traffic in the area. And this is true whether or not the other driver attended his vehicle. If unattended, the driver must investigate who owns the property damaged and give notice to that person and exchange information.

If, during his accident investigation, the driver finds out there is bodily injury or death resulting from the accident, the driver must notify local law enforcement immediately.

Surprise #1: Violating Minnesota Statute 169.09 is a crime that will result in a permanent criminal record; however, whether that crime is a felony or a misdemeanor will depend on the accident results.

  • If a person (driver, passenger, or pedestrian) involved in the accident dies, then you could face felony charges. If found guilty, you will face imprisonment of up to three years, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
  • If the accident results in great bodily harm to another, you will face imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine up to $4,000, or both.
  • If the collision results in substantial bodily injury, you will face imprisonment for up to one year, or a fine up to $3,000, or both. This is a gross misdemeanor.
  • Even if there are no injuries you could still face a misdemeanor charge and face up to 90 days in jail, or a fine of $1,000, or both.
  • The statute defines “great bodily harm” as an injury with a high probability of death, permanent disfigurement, or substantial loss of function or impairment of a body part or organ.
  • The law defines “substantial bodily injury” as an injury resulting in temporary but substantial loss of function of a body part or organ, or the fracture of a body part.

In addition, the Commissioner can suspend the license of any driver failing or refusing to file the required traffic accident report.

Surprise #2:  Subdivision 13(b) of Statute 169.09 prohibits any accident report from discovery under any law or court rule. No one can use an accident report (including the data in the report) required under the statute as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal, or as evidence in a criminal proceeding or action for damages. This is not a bar to the information contained in the report; that is, this section does not bar the testimony of the participants, witnesses, and investigating officers from taking the stand and testifying as to facts within their personal knowledge. The physical report (and the data contained physically within the report) itself will not appear as evidence.

Are there any defenses to hit and run? It would seem the answer is no because a person either stays at the scene and complies with the investigation and reporting requirements, or he does not. However, there is one possible defense and that gives us Surprise #3.  If you leave the scene of the accident because you are taking a person suffering bodily injury that resulted from the accident to emergency medical care, that is a defense to the criminal charge. As soon as practicable after delivering the injured person to medical care, the driver must notify law enforcement of the accident and why he left the scene. This is an affirmative defense that the defendant must raise in his pleadings and prove at trial in order to defeat the prosecution’s case against his admittedly unlawful conduct.

To learn how Minneapolis police investigate hit and run accidents (or not), read the‘s article entitled “Minneapolis Police Skip Inquiries in Most Hit-and-Run Accidents”.

To talk more about this, or anything else, please contact us. We are your resource for all your criminal law questions.

The information presented in this article is not considered legal advice. Please contact our law office to speak to an attorney about your case.