How long after a hit and run accident you can be charged depends on state laws, the severity of the accident, and several other factors. However, if you were involved in a hit and run, you may face criminal and civil consequences, even if it has been several weeks or months since the accident occurred.
If you were a victim of a hit and run, a car accident lawyer may be able to help you identify the at-fault motorist and hold them legally accountable. Alternatively, they can handle your uninsured motorist claim and seek compensation on your behalf through your insurance policy.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Hit and Run Charge?
The statute of limitations determines how long a person can face charges for a hit and run or another criminal act. This is the period when the prosecutor can file charges against them. In most cases, charges cannot be filed in a case if this deadline passes.
The statute of limitations for hit and run accidents depends on:
- Where the accident occurred
- Whether the charge will be a misdemeanor or felony
In general, a hit and run may be a felony if:
- Someone suffers significant injuries
- A victim passes away from their injuries
- There is substantial property damage and minor or moderate injuries
A hit and run involves a person who is in a collision, but:
- They leave the accident scene without providing contact information; and/or
- They do not offer any assistance to someone who is injured
The statutes of limitations on criminal acts vary by state but generally include:
|Alabama||One year||Three years|
|Arkansas||One year||Three years|
|Louisiana (La. CCRP Art. 578)||One year||Two years|
|Mississippi (MS Code § 99-1-5)||Two years||Five years|
The most serious felonies have additional time in most states. For example, Arkansas gives prosecutors six years to file these charges while Louisiana offers three. In addition, some states do not have a statute of limitations that applies to some types of manslaughter cases.
What Are the Criminal Penalties of a Hit and Run?
The consequences someone could face if convicted of a hit and run will also vary based on the circumstances of the case. Each state has its own laws for this. Examples include:
Mississippi: Miss. Code Ann. § 63-3-401, which outlines the duties of a motorist after a crash, the state codes dictate that someone convicted of a hit and run should face:
- 30 days to one year in jail; or
- A fine of $100 to $5,000; or
- Fine and imprisonment
A hit and run with injuries is a Class D felony. If convicted, penalties include:
- Up to six years in prison
- Up to a $10,000 fine
- License revocation
Penalties could increase under several circumstances, such as if the driver was drunk, uninsured, driving with a suspended license, had warrants, or driving a stolen vehicle.
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Why do Some Motorists Leave the Scene of a Crash?
There are many reasons why a driver might leave the accident scene after a collision. Most of them are because they want to avoid getting in additional trouble. This could include:
- They are drunk or otherwise intoxicated
- They are uninsured
- They do not have a license or have a suspended or revoked license
- They have outstanding tickets or warrants
- They have drugs or other illegal items in their car
- They are driving a stolen car
- They are an undocumented immigrant
- They are not where their family or employer believes they are
- They are in a company car or commercial vehicle and do not want to put their job in jeopardy
What Can I Do If I Am a Victim of a Hit and Run Accident?
As a victim of a hit and run driver, it is important to know that the criminal case against them does not matter. Instead, it is the civil case that allows you to recover compensation. This means you can hold the at-fault driver accountable for their actions regardless of the outcome of their criminal case – or even if they never face arrest.
In many cases, a car accident attorney can interview additional witnesses or uncover video that allows them to identify the hit and run driver. They can then build an insurance claim and seek compensation based on that person’s liability policy or sue that person in civil court.
However, the sooner an attorney gets to work on this type of case, the better. If you or a family member suffered injuries in a hit and run accident, you should contact a law firm experienced with these cases as soon as possible. What you do in the first days and weeks after a crash can be vital in identifying the liable party and holding them responsible.
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We Help Protect the Rights of Victims Injured in Hit and Run Accidents
The Morris Bart law firm has 15 locations to serve clients hurt in hit and run crashes. We provide representation in all areas of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Our case reviews are always free. We are a contingency fee law firm and can be reached at (800) 537-8185.
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