Wolf Law recently represented a client in Perth Amboy Municipal Court charged with leaving the scene of an accident. This is a fairly serious traffic offense in New Jersey. The statute governing this charge is N.J.S.A. 39:4-129. The penalties for a first offense include a one (1) year license suspension, a fine of $2,500 to $5,000, and potential imprisonment of 180 days if the accident resulted in injury or death to another. Also, if the accident results in an injury the leaving the scene charge causes eight points on your New Jersey Driver’s license. If the accident does not result in injury, it causes two points on your license. Remember, if you accumulate between 12 and 15 points on your license in a two-year period, your license is subject to suspension.
The statute requires that a driver immediately stop a vehicle once he or she is involved in an accident. This should be done at the scene of the accident or as close to the scene as possible. The driver must then satisfy the requirements of N.J.S.A. 39:4-129(c), which requires the driver provide his name and address and display his driver’s license and registration for the vehicle to the other driver or to the police officer at the scene. Also, if anyone is injured the driver must provide “reasonable assistance, including the carrying of that person to a hospital or a physician for medical or surgical treatment, if it is apparent that the treatment is necessary or is requested by the injured person.” Finally, if the other vehicle is unattended (i.e. you hit a parked car), you must attempt to find the driver and if you are unable to locate him or her you must create a written notice with your contact information and place it on the other vehicle or notify the local police department.
In our case, the driver was backing out of a driveway when she struck a parked car on the street. The neighbor, who owned the parked car, observed the accident from across the street. As the neighbor went to confront our client, she drove off, not thinking that she had damaged the other vehicle. The neighbor, however, was able to take down our client’s license plate number. A few days later, she received tickets in the mail for leaving the scene of an accident and failure to report an accident.
She hired us to defend her against these charges. As a result, we were able to get the leaving the scene of an accident charge dismissed because, we argued, the driver did not believe that she had caused damage to the other vehicle. In return, the client plead guilty to failure to report, a much less serious offense that involved no suspension time, no points, and a fine of only $100.