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Welcome to FindLaw's DUI Law series. If you have been charged with a DUI, know someone who has, or just want to know about the law and how to protect your rights during a DUI stop, please come back each week for more information.
Any car accident can be a frightening experience. And if you've been drinking and get into an accident, you might not just be fearing for your safety but for your freedom as well. And that fear can make you do some foolish things, like fleeing the scene of a DUI accident.
But what if no one was hurt? What if there wasn't a whole lot of damage to the other car, or you didn't hit another car at all? Here's what you need to know about the legal requirements and the possible penalties for a DUI hit and run.
It's illegal in every state to leave the scene of an accident without either reporting the accident to law enforcement, providing identifying information, or providing aid in case someone needs help. (And it should go without saying that drunk driving is illegal in every state as well.) Your legal requirements following an accident will depend largely on what happened.
If the accident only resulted in property damage, you normally need to make a reasonable effort to identify the property owner and alert them as to what happened. If the accident resulted in death or any injury to others, you have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to help the injured party and report the accident to local law enforcement.
A DUI accident involving property damage will cost you more, both in additional fines, fees, and restitution, and in additional or elevated criminal charges. Fleeing the scene of a drunk driving accident will only worsen an already bad situation. Added hit and run charges can mean a longer time with a suspended or revoked driver's license, more fines and community service, and possibly a longer jail sentence.
The Next Move
If you've committed a DUI hit and run or left the scene after a drunk driving accident, you should do the right thing and alert the authorities, especially if there was personal injury or property damage involved. But talk to a good DUI attorney first. He or she will be able to advise you of your rights, and what to do if you're accused of a hit and run.