LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT
Leaving the scene of an accident is most often a motor vehicle violation, NJS 39:4-129. The penalties for the motor vehicle violation can be severe. There is also a criminal statute that deals with leaving the scene if certain factors are present.
LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT RESULTING IN DEATH; NJS 2C:11-5.1
If an individual knows he/she has been in an accident and leaves the scene, if that accident resulted in the death of someone, the driver is guilty of a crime of the second degree which calls for a sentence of between 5 and 10 years in custody. It does not matter if the driver is not aware that he/she hit someone or that the person died. It is also not relevant if the driver is not at fault in the accident. In State v. Fisher, 395 N.J. Super. 533 (App. Div. 2007), the victim was either sitting or lying on a dark road and was not visible. The driver knew he had hit something but did not know what it was and claimed he had no idea it was person.
The accident was found not to be Mr. Fisher’s fault but he was prosecuted and convicted for leaving the scene.
LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT INVOLVING SERIOUS BODILY INJURY, NJS 2C:12-1.1
This is similar to the above offense. The obvious difference is it involves serious bodily injury and not death. “Serious Bodily Injury” has a specific definition:
bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ
Leaving the scene of an accident in these circumstances is a crime of the third degree with a sentencing range of probation to 5 years. The presumption of no imprisonment for a first offender does not apply to this statute.