Picture this: you’ve just been involved in a car accident. Your heart is racing, adrenaline surges through your veins, and in the panic of the moment, the idea of simply driving away might seem tempting. After all, who wants to deal with the hassle, the potential blame, and the legal tangle of an accident? But here’s the reality check–leaving the scene of an accident can lead to severe consequences.

In British Columbia, we at Jaswal & Krueger are recognized as a leading law firm when it comes to handling driving-related offences. A question we are often asked is “is leaving the scene of an accident a criminal offence in BC?” The short answer is yes and in this article, we’re going to explore the ramifications of leaving the scene of an accident.

Understanding “Leaving the Scene”

Leaving the scene of an accident, commonly known as a “hit-and-run”, involves a driver departing from the accident location without fulfilling their legal obligations. This includes failing to provide necessary information, such as their name and address, to the other party involved in the accident.

Individuals may leave the scene of an accident for various reasons, such as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving recklessly, or fearing the consequences of their actions. These actions can have severe legal repercussions.

It’s essential to recognize that leaving the scene of an accident can result in both administrative and criminal penalties. Administrative penalties often involve fines, license suspension, and potential liability for damages. However, criminal penalties can lead to imprisonment, a criminal record, and other life-altering consequences.

Responsibilities Under the Motor Vehicle Act

In British Columbia, the responsibilities of drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents are clearly defined under the Motor Vehicle Act. Understanding these obligations is crucial for all drivers, as failing to fulfill them can lead to significant legal consequences.

In the case of vehicle-on-vehicle collisions, drivers are legally obligated to remain at the scene or immediately return to it. They must also provide necessary assistance if required, ensuring the safety and well-being of all parties involved. Drivers must share the required information with one another, including:

  • his or her name, address, and driver’s licence number
  • the name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle
  • the licence number of the vehicle
  • relevant insurance details.

In the event of vehicle-on-property collisions, such as those involving an unattended vehicle or other forms of property damage, drivers are required to take “reasonable steps” to identify and notify the property owner about the accident. 

This notification, which should be left in a conspicuous place, must include essential information regarding the incident, as well as personal information such as the name, address and license plate number of the offending driver. It is important to abide by the law in such situations–neglecting these duties can lead to legal repercussions.

Criminal Code and Legal Consequences

The Criminal Code of Canada addresses hit and run offences with greater severity. Under Section 320.16 of the Criminal Code, anyone who operates a vehicle involved in an accident and, without a reasonable excuse, knowingly fails to stop, give their name and address, and offer assistance, commits a criminal offence.

This offence can result in summary or indictable convictions, both carrying significant penalties for the hit and run driver. Summary convictions may lead to a jail sentence of up to two years, while convictions on indictment can result in up to 10 years in prison.

It’s essential to note that the Criminal Code‘s reach extends beyond provincial borders, unlike the Motor Vehicle Act, which applies only within British Columbia. This means that hit and run charges can lead to serious nationwide consequences.

Both the Motor Vehicle Act and the Criminal Code impose substantial responsibilities and legal repercussions on individuals involved in accidents. Understanding and adhering to these regulations is paramount, as non-compliance can result in fines, imprisonment, a criminal record, and other life-altering consequences. 

Legal assistance from a lawyer who specializes in driving offences is crucial when facing hit and run charges to navigate the complexities of the legal system effectively.

Instances Where Leaving the Scene May Be Allowed

While leaving the scene of an accident is generally considered an offence, certain scenarios permit individuals to leave the scene legally. For example, if you find yourself in immediate danger, you may temporarily leave the scene. However, it’s crucial to promptly report the accident to the authorities and fulfill your obligations as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Facing Hit and Run Charges

man holding set files and folders

If you find yourself charged with leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident, it’s essential to seek immediate legal assistance. This is a serious offence with significant penalties, and navigating the legal process requires professional guidance.

How a Lawyer Can Help

Facing hit and run charges is an immensely serious matter that can dramatically impact your life. In such challenging times, a lawyer who specializes in driving offences can play a pivotal role in your defence. 

Legal experts can help you build a robust defence strategy by thoroughly examining the evidence, identifying weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and exploring potential legal defences. They understand the nuances of hit and run cases, and their expertise can prove invaluable in navigating the intricacies of the legal system.

What’s more, legal professionals can negotiate on your behalf with prosecutors to potentially secure reduced charges or penalties. Their negotiation skills and knowledge of the law can lead to a more favourable outcome for your case.

It’s important to recognize that hit and run charges can lead to a criminal record, significant fines, and even imprisonment. Therefore, enlisting the support of a seasoned lawyer can make a substantial difference in your case’s ultimate resolution. With their guidance, you can work toward minimizing the impact of these charges on your life and future prospects.

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