Leaving the Scene

What are the laws against leaving the scene in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, there are two different types of leaving the scene offenses: leaving the scene after causing property damage and leaving the scene after causing personal injury (either causing death or not causing death).

It is unlawful for an individual to knowingly collide with or otherwise cause damage to another motor vehicle, property or person without stopping, making known his or her name, his or her residence and the register number of his or her motor vehicle involved in the incident.

In order to be found guilty of leaving the scene of property damage, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual operated a motor vehicle, that the vehicle was operated on a public way or a place in which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees, that while operating the vehicle, he/she caused damage to another vehicle or property either by colliding with it or damage in some other way, that he/she knew he/she had collided or caused damage to another’s property and that after causing such damage, the operator did not stop and make known his/her name, home address and the registration number of the vehicle involved.

In order to be found guilty of leaving the scene of personal injury, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual operated a motor vehicle, on a public way, that he/she collided with or otherwise injured another person and that after the collision or injury, the individual did not stop and make known his/her name, home address and the registration number of the motor vehicle involved.

What types of leaving the scene charges are there in Massachusetts?

There are three different types of leaving the scene charges:
1. Leaving the scene of property damage;
2. Leaving the scene of personal injury (not causing death); and
3. Leaving the scene of personal injury (causing death).

What is the purpose of the leaving the scene statutes?

The purpose of the leaving the scene statute is to enable those who have been injured by a motor vehicle to immediately obtain accurate information about the person and motor vehicle involved in the incident. The law puts an affirmative and active duty on the driver of a motor vehicle in an accident to immediately stop at the scene and provide their specific information in order to identify him or her at a later time.

What happens when I am arrested for leaving the scene?

Typically, if an individual leaves the scene of personal injury or property injury, the individual is not present when the police arrive at the scene. However, the police have different methods of locating an individual who leaves the scene after causing property damage and/or personal injury. Police may be able to locate, identify and ultimately charge an individual based on eyewitness observations made before, after and/or during the collision; by forensic or physical evidence left at the scene; after a thorough search of the area, etc. The mere fact that an individual is able to leave the scene of an incident prior to the police arrival does not mean the individual will ultimately not be charged.

If you are contacted by the police about a motor vehicle accident and/or any other matter, do not speak to the police without calling us first. What is said on television is actually true. Anything you say to the police on the phone, through email or in person can and will be used against you in a court of law. Call us and we can help you respond to the police in a way that answers the police inquire while simultaneously protecting your personal interests.

If you receive a citation in the mail, it is imperative that you contact us immediately as there are statutory time limits that must be complied with.

What are the penalties?

The penalty for leaving the scene after causing property damage is not less than 2 weeks nor more than 2 years in the House of Correction. This is a minimum sentence meaning that the minimum sentence a judge can impose is not less than 2 weeks incarceration. However, this minimum sentence is only mandated if a judge imposes a period of incarceration. Often times, provided there is no prior criminal record, we are able to resolve this charge without a period of incarceration. A charge of leaving the scene of property damage can be resolved with a continuation without a finding which will turn to a dismissal after having successfully completed the imposed probationary period.

The penalty for leaving the scene after causing personal injury (not resulting in death) is imprisonment in the house of correction for not less than six months nor more than 2 years. Again, this minimum sentence requires a minimum six month period of incarceration if a judge chooses to impose a period of incarceration. An individual could be sentenced to a probationary period. As personal injury to an individual was sustained, the law does not allow this charge to be resolved by a continuation without a finding.

The penalty for leaving the scene after causing personal injury resulting in death is imprisonment in the state prison for not less than two and one half years nor more than ten years or by imprisonment in the house of correction for not less than one year nor more than two and one half years. A sentence imposed after a conviction for this charge mandates that the individual serve a minimum mandatory sentence of not less than one year. Meaning, if convicted of leaving the scene without identifying yourself after causing death, an individual must serve a minimum mandatory sentence of one year in custody. A continuation without a finding disposition is not available for leaving the scene of personal injury offenses, and the individual cannot be released from custody without having served at least one year in custody.

What constitutes a misdemeanor or felony charge for leaving the scene?

The individual facts and circumstances of your case determine what charges with be brought against you.
The charges of leaving the scene of property damage and leaving the scene of personal injury not resulting in death are both misdemeanor. If charged with either offense, the case is most likely prosecuted in the district court and any incarcerated sentence imposed could only be served at a house of correction.

Leaving the scene of personal injury causing death is a felony with a minimum mandatory sentence. Regardless of whether your case is prosecuted in the district courts or the superior court, if convicted of this offense, you must serve at least a minimum sentence in the house of correction or the state prison for at least one year. Your sentence could range all the way up to 10 years in state prison, but everyone must serve at least one year committed.

What defenses are there to leaving the scene offenses?

Each case gives rise to different defenses. One such defense is operation. The burden is on the Commonwealth to prove that the individual charged was the person operating or driving the motor vehicle during the crash. Another defense is proof that the incident occurred on a public way or a way in which the public has the right of access as an invitee or licensee.Another defense is lack of knowledge. The law makes it a crime to leave the scene of an incident after having knowingly collided. There is a knowledge element which is required before an individual can be convicted. We would challenge the accused’s actions and words, and surrounding circumstances in the case to show the lack of knowledge on the suspect’s part.

If I am charged, how can it affect my life?

Not only are there legal consequences involved in being criminally charged, including financial cost associated with hiring a lawyer and defending yourself, but there are also license consequences with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Depending on the charge and the ultimate court disposition, an individual charged with leaving the scene could suffer a significant license loss which would prevent you from validly operating a motor vehicle.

Why you should hire a defense attorney?

These offenses carry severe penalties including terms of imprisonment and minimum mandatory sentences which impact your life in many ways for years to come.
An experienced defense attorney familiar with knowledge about the leaving the scene offenses can begin working immediately to assess the case, preserve evidence and prevent excessive bail and conditions of release. We can also begin to immediately investigate the facts of the case and obtain critical evidence necessary to defend against the charge. This includes filing critical motions such as motions to dismiss all or some of the charges based on the facts and law that apply as well as motions to suppress evidence and statements. It is very important to speak with us prior to answering any questions from police officers as the police will use your statements against you in court.