The attorneys at Greco Neyland, PC represent clients who left the scene after a traffic crash in Manhattan or in the surrounding areas in New York City. Never leave the scene until after you have complied with your reporting requirements under New York law. But if you made the mistake of leaving the scene, then a criminal investigation has begun.
New York’s laws prohibiting hit-and-run are unforgiving. Once the criminal investigation begins, you have the right to be represented by an attorney and the right to remain silent so that you do not incriminate yourself.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you at every stage of the case from resolving the criminal investigation with the goal of avoiding any criminal charges, to dealing with the insurance company that will pay for the damages to property involved in the crash. Many important defenses exist in hit and run cases in New York.
Call today to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about how to protect yourself after a criminal investigation begins. Call (212) 951-1300 today to discuss your case and possible defenses that might apply. We can begin your defense today.
New York’s Vehicle Code § 20002, subdivision (a), prohibits a driver of any vehicle knowingly involved in an accident resulting in damage to any property, including vehicles, other than his or her own vehicle, from not immediately stopping his or her vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of other motorists, and doing either of the following:
The courts have found that the requirement that the driver comply with Vehicle Code § 20002 does not infringe the privilege against self-incrimination. See California v. Byers, 402 U.S. 424, 431, 91 S.Ct. 1535, 29 L.Ed.2d 9 (1971).
Under New York law, the willful failure of the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in damage to property or another vehicle to perform this duty is a violation of Vehicle Code section 20002, subdivision (a), a misdemeanor.
The requirements of New York’s hit and run statute apply everywhere in the state of New York including driving on private property as well as upon highways or streets. See People v. Stansberry, 242 Cal.App.2d 199, 204, 51 Cal.Rptr. 403, 406–407 (2d Dist.1966).
No two traffic accidents are the same. In many of these cases extenuating circumstances explain why a person left the scene. Although the laws for hit-and-run are unforgiving in New York, many important defenses exist to help fight the charges.
The attorneys at Greco Neyland, PC are experienced in fighting cases involving hit and run or leaving the scene of a traffic crash in New York County in Manhattan. We have represented clients in both felony and misdemeanor cases. We can conduct a full investigation so that all legal defenses can be presented to protect you during the criminal investigation and during the civil investigation by the insurance company.
Defenses to hit and run include:
1. You Were Not Driving a Vehicle Involved in the Traffic Crash
If you were not driving a vehicle involved in the traffic crash then you can not be prosecuted for hit and run in New York. In many of these cases, a witness will write down the tag number and the investigating officer will visit the registered owner of the vehicle at their home or place of business. If that person invokes their right to remain silent, then the investigating officer often has an impossible time proving who was driving.
2. You Did Not Willfully Leave the Scene
If you did not act knowingly or willfully when you left the scene then you have a defense to hit and run. In some of these cases, the driver is injured and needs immediate medical attention. Sometimes a good samaritan at the scene will take the injured driver for medical care before that person has complied with their reporting requirements. In other cases, the driver suffered from a concussion or another injury that prevents the driver from thinking clearly. If the injury contributed to the decision to leave the scene then you might have a defense to hit and run that your attorney can use to prevent charges from being filed or to get the case dismissed by the judge prior to trial.
3. You Did Not Willfully Fail to Provide Required Information
In some cases, the driver will provide most of the required information but not all of the required information. If the decision to not to report all of the required information was not willful, then you may have a defense to the charges that your criminal defense attorney can assert. The rules about what you are required to report, to whom, and when are very technical. In many of these cases, the failure to report the requirement information is an oversight instead of an intentional act.
4. You Didn’t Know There Was Any Damage
Under New York law, you must be aware that a crash occurred and that damage resulted before you can be charged with a crime for leaving the scene. In some cases, the driver just doesn’t know that a crash occurred. In other cases, the driver knows that the crash occurred but doesn’t think that any property was damaged. For example, if you hit a telephone pole, you may not see that the pole is damage. In some cases, even if a vehicle is struck, you might not be able to see the damage from just looking at the vehicle. If you didn’t know that damage occurred, then you are not guilty of hit and run.
5. You Didn’t Know that Anyone Was Injured
In some cases, a person doesn’t realize that anyone else is injured in the crash. And from the way the crash occurred, it would be unlikely that injured occurred. Not knowing that an injury occurred can be a defense to leaving the scene of a crash with injury in some cases depending on the circumstances.
The elements of New York’s Vehicle Code § 20002, subdivision (a) include:
At trial, before the jury may return a verdict of guilty, the jury must agree unanimously that the defendant failed to perform the foregoing duties.
The word “knowingly” means that the driver of the vehicle involved knew that an accident had occurred, knew that he or she was involved in the accident, and either knew that the accident resulted in damage to property, or knew that it was of such a nature that it was probable that it resulted in damage to property.
The word “involved,” as used in the hit and run statute means means connected with an accident in a natural or logical manner. Also see the case of Tischoff v. Wolfchief, 16 Cal.App.3d 703, 706, 94 Cal.Rptr. 299, 300 (4th Dist.1971), to learn more about the definition of the word “involved.”
Sometimes called the phantom “hit and run” case, the phrase to be “involved in an accident” does not necessarily require that a vehicle actually collided with another vehicle or a person.
The standard jury instructions for misdemeanor hit and run can be found in CA CALJIC 16.650 which were last updated in March of 2016.
The fact that your vehicle did not make physical contact with another vehicle damaged in a crash does not necessarily prevent a prosecution although it makes the prosecutor’s job much more difficult.
The issues often arises in civil cases. For example, in MVAIC v. Eisenberg, 18 N.Y.2d 1, 271 N.Y.S.2d 641, 218 N.E.2d 524, a hit and run vehicle sideswiped a second vehicle causing the latter to cross into claimant’s lane of traffic and colliding with claimant’s vehicle. The court held that the second vehicle was a “mere involuntary intermediary” in a chain of collisions and in such circumstance met the statute’s requirement of “physical contact” between the claimant and the hit and run car. As the court stated (18 N.Y.2d p. 5, 271 N.Y.S.2d 641, 218 N.E.2d 524) “the legislature did not intend to impose the further burden of requiring the claimant to establish direct physical contact without the intervention of another motor vehicle.”
As these cases show, there is no real distinction between a hit and run vehicle which strikes one vehicle which in turn collides with another and one which negligently stops short and thereby causes vehicles behind it which are unable to anticipate that action to strike it. In both examples, a hit and run event is established.
The contact between the offending vehicle and an “involuntary intermediary” which occurs in either example is sufficient to satisfy the objective of the statute—the avoidance of fraud and collusion which could occur in an accident involving a “phantom” vehicle.
In cases involving multiple collisions the court will consider whether the cases are intimately connected in time and space as to provide the “close * * * and * * * substantial physical nexus” between the offending vehicle and the one containing the plaintiff necessary to meet the statute’s requirement that the accident arise out of “physical contact” with the offending vehicle. Matter of Smith, 29 N.Y.2d 116 at p. 121, 324 N.Y.S.2d 15, 272 N.E.2d 528.
If you were accused of violating section 20002, subdivision (a) of the Vehicle Code, a misdemeanor, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Greco Neyland, PC. We represent clients who are accused of leaving the scene after a traffic crash (often called hit-and-run) throughout Manhattan and the rest of New York City.
The non-driving registered owner of the vehicle or the non owner rider in control of a vehicle also has duties after a crash. Any allegation of leaving the scene of an accident with property damage can be charged as a violation of Vehicle Code section 20002, subdivision (a), a misdemeanor.
Don’t just wait for an investigator to track you down. Instead, seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you assert your rights so that you have the best chance of resolving the outstanding criminal and civil issues under the best possible terms.
This article was last updated on Wednesday, July 6, 2016.