Syracuse Defense Lawyer For Leaving The Scene of Property Damage Ticket

Man taking pictures of damage at a car accident scene

In New York, if you are involved in a car accident involving property damage or an injury to an animal or person, you cannot flee the accident scene. Leaving the scene of a property damage accident can result in a traffic ticket under New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 600(1). Although a traffic infraction under § 600(1) isn’t considered a crime, the consequences of being convicted of this offense are still significant. You could end up spending two weeks in jail.

Have you been charged with leaving the scene of a property damage accident in New York? Instead of paying the fine and pleading guilty, we can help you fight the charges against you. Pleading guilty could result in higher insurance rates, the possible suspension of your license, and jail time. The New York Traffic Ticket Lawyers are prepared to fight for you. Contact us today to schedule a complimentary case evaluation.

Understanding New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 600(1) 

If you were involved in a “hit and run” car accident in New York, you may wonder what the consequences would be for not telling the police. A failure to report an accident involving property damage or an injury may constitute a traffic violation, misdemeanor, or even a felony. Under New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 600(1), if you know you were involved in a traffic collision and you know or should have known there was property damage or injury, it’s illegal to leave the scene of the accident before exchanging the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Proof of insurance, including dates of the policy
  • Your driver’s license number the carrier’s name and effective 

The Difference Between VTL § 600(1)(a) and VTL § 600(2)(a)

VTL § 600(1)(a) is for car accidents that cause only property damage and no injuries. According to VTL § 600(1)(a), the driver who may have been at fault in a car accident that only causes property damage must share his or her driver’s license and insurance information with any other drivers involved in the accident. The law doesn’t require drivers to call the police or wait for the police to arrive when nobody is injured in the accident as long as the estimated cost of the damage is less than $1,000. 

According to VTL § 600(2)(a), when an accident causes one or more people physical injury, the driver must call the police and file a report if he or she is physically able to do so. The driver must share insurance and personal contact information with other parties involved in the accident. The duty to report remains regardless of which driver was at fault for the accident. There are separate penalties for leaving the scene before police arrive and failure to share insurance information. Failure to do both can result in facing two charges under VTL § 600(2)(a). In a single-car accident where one vehicle strikes a telephone pole or tree, the driver must call the police if a passenger is injured. 

What If the Other Driver Left the Scene?

Drivers may assume that if the other driver involved in the accident has fled the accident scene, they aren’t required to stay. On the contrary, if the recipient of property damage isn’t present, you are required to report the accident or incident to the nearest police station. 

For example, you may want to call the nearest police station and tell them a car accident occurred and request that an officer come to the scene. The officer can write an accident report that may help you pursue a claim or defend yourself against a claim for compensation. While you aren’t required to wait for the police to arrive, doing so may help you in the future. 

Defenses for Leaving the Scene of an Accident – Property Damage

It may seem difficult to defend against hit-and-run charges. However, several valid defenses are available against a charge of violating VTL § 600(1)(a). The prosecutor must prove every element of the violation beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you under New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 600(1). Specifically, the prosecutor must prove that you knew or should have known there was property damage. 

For example, suppose a driver struck another vehicle while backing out of a parking spot. The driver assumed he or she was being “waved on” to leave by the driver of the vehicle he or she struck. In this case, the driver can raise the legal defense of a “mistake of fact.” You could also challenge the prosecutor’s case if you didn’t know that you caused property damage because you didn’t realize you collided with another vehicle or object. 

Penalties Under New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 600(1)

Depending on how many times you’ve violated NY VTL 600 and the nature of another party’s property damage, injury, or death, failure to report the accident may be punishable by fines and jail time. Under New York law, leaving the scene of an accident that causes property damage without reporting it is considered a traffic infraction. You’ll likely be issued a pink summons or ticket for a non-criminal traffic violation, but one that will be added to your DMV record. If you are convicted, you will be required to pay a fine of up to $250, and you could be required to spend up to 15 days in jail. 

Contact a New York Traffic Ticket Attorney

Leaving the scene of a car accident that causes property damage can result in jail time, monetary fines, increased insurance premiums, and points on your driver’s license. If you’re facing a traffic violation, it’s important that you understand your rights. Before you plead guilty and pay the associated fine, speaking to an experienced attorney is crucial. Contact The New York Traffic Ticket Lawyers to schedule a free case evaluation.