Leaving the scene of an accident is ordinarily a traffic offense in the State of New Jersey. If property damage occurs as a direct result of the accident, a person convicted after a municipal court proceeding will forfeit his or her license for a period of six months.
If someone is injured, the loss of license is one year. However, in recent enactments the New Jersey Legislature significantly increased the consequences for certain cases involving leaving the scene of an accident. If a person knowingly has an accident and leaves the scene without rendering aid, and someone dies as a result of the accident, then it is a second degree crime. The penalties include imprisonment for a period of five to ten years.
If no one dies, but serious bodily injury results, then it is a third degree crime with a sentence range of three to five years. There are important issues that must be addressed by a criminal defense attorney representing someone involved in an accident. A thorough investigation includes a determination as to whether the accused knew he or she was involved in an accident involving injury or death. The extent of injury can be a critical factor in determining whether the case will remain a traffic court matter, or a felony heard in the Superior Court. It is imperative for a person charged with leaving the scene of an accident to retain counsel as soon as possible, especially before any statements are made to police.