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leaving the scene of an accident

Laws vary from state to state, but in most states it is a crime or criminal offense for the operator of a motor vehicle to leave the scene of single car accident involving an unattended (unoccupied) vehicle or other property, or to leave the scene of a single car accident involving highway fixtures (barricades, medians, guardrails), traffic control devices (stop signs, yield signs, railroad crossing gate arms, etc.), or other real or personal property (a ditch, embankment, or building).

It is also a criminal offense in most states for the operator of a motor vehicle to leave the scene of an accident involving personal injuries or death—including an accident in which the operator of a motor vehicle strikes a pedestrian or cyclist, for example. And it is a criminal offense in most states for the operator of a motor vehicle to leave the scene of an accident involving multiple motor vehicles.

The duties of an operator of a motor vehicle involved in an accident may vary from state to state and are usually located in a state’s statutes—often in a code titled with a name like “vehicles and traffic” or “transportation,” for example. These duties generally include:

• the duty to share information such as name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number with other motor vehicle operators involved in the accident, or owners of property involved in the accident—or with the police if such other persons are not able to receive the information;

• the duty to stop and locate or notify the owner of property involved in a motor vehicle accident (such as an unattended motor vehicle or other property) of the accident and of the motor vehicle operator’s name, address, and vehicle registration number, for example;

• the duty to notify the road authority (the state department of transportation, for example) of the accident, and provide the motor vehicle operator’s name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number, for example;

• the duty to stop and provide any person who suffered personal injuries or death with any reasonable assistance possible, including calling an ambulance to transport such person to the hospital for medical care or evaluation (known as the duty to stop and render aid); and

• the duty to report to the police any accident involving bodily injury or death of any person, or involving property damage.

In Texas, it is a criminal offense for the operator of a motor vehicle to leave the scene of an accident, whether it involves an unattended vehicle, property damage, or personal injury. Under Texas Transportation Code Section 550.021, if an accident results in injury or death, the driver must stop, render aid, and exchange information such as name, address, driver's license number, and vehicle registration. Failure to stop and render aid can result in felony charges, especially if the accident involves serious bodily injury or death. For accidents involving only property damage, as per Section 550.022 and 550.024, the driver must stop and take reasonable steps to locate the owner of the damaged property or vehicle to provide their information, or leave a note with such information if the owner cannot be found. Additionally, the driver must report the accident to the local police or sheriff's department if the damage appears to exceed $1,000 or there is no reasonable likelihood that the owner of the property will be found. The Texas Transportation Code outlines these duties to ensure accountability and assistance in the event of motor vehicle accidents.


Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

18 U.S. Code § 33 - Destruction of motor vehicles or motor vehicle facilities
While most hit-and-run offenses are governed by state laws, federal law addresses the destruction of or damage to motor vehicles or related facilities.

This statute makes it a federal crime to willfully destroy or cause damage to a motor vehicle or motor vehicle facility with the intent to endanger the safety of any person or with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life. While this law does not directly address the duty to stop or report after an accident, it is relevant in cases where the hit-and-run incident involves such willful or reckless destruction or damage to federal property or affects interstate or foreign commerce.

18 U.S. Code § 1361 - Government property or contracts
This statute is relevant when the property damaged in a hit-and-run incident is owned by the federal government.

This law criminalizes the willful injury or destruction of government property. If a hit-and-run accident involves damage to federal property, such as a mailbox, military vehicle, or federal building, the driver could be prosecuted under this statute. The penalties vary depending on the value of the property damaged and can include fines and imprisonment.

18 U.S. Code § 2 - Principals
This statute is relevant for holding individuals accountable for hit-and-run offenses that involve federal crimes.

Under this law, a person who aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces, or procures the commission of a federal offense is punishable as a principal. This means that if a hit-and-run incident is part of a federal crime, not only the person who directly committed the offense but also those who assisted or encouraged the act can be held legally responsible.

18 U.S. Code § 1112 - Manslaughter
In the context of a hit-and-run incident resulting in death, this statute may be applicable if the incident occurs on federal property or involves federal personnel.

This statute defines involuntary manslaughter as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice, occurring either during the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or in the commission of a lawful act done in an unlawful manner. If a hit-and-run accident on federal property or involving federal personnel results in death and meets the criteria for involuntary manslaughter, the driver could be charged under this statute.

23 U.S. Code § 409 - Discovery and admission as evidence of certain reports and surveys
This statute is relevant to the admissibility of certain reports in legal proceedings following a hit-and-run accident.

This law protects the confidentiality of reports, surveys, schedules, lists, or data compiled or collected for the purpose of identifying, evaluating, or planning the safety enhancement of potential accident sites, hazardous roadway conditions, or railway-highway crossings, pursuant to sections 130, 144, and 148 of this title. While it does not directly address hit-and-run incidents, it is relevant for understanding what information may be protected from discovery in legal proceedings following an accident.