While most accidents are simply considered mistakes that will only result in lost money for drivers and their insurance companies, some behaviors on the road that cause accidents can lead to criminal charges. As a general rule, police will have some discretion to decide whether the driver’s behavior leading up to the accident was serious enough to warrant criminal charges. However, drivers who are careful to obey the rules of the road and report the crash afterward generally do not have to worry about criminal charges if they get into an accident.
What kinds of criminal behaviors are associated with accidents?
Most states have criminal laws regarding reckless or careless driving. If a driver is going way over the speed limit or engaged in other behaviors that show they were violating multiple traffic laws when they caused an accident, they can be criminally charged as a careless or reckless driver.
Another common form of criminal behavior that results in a lot of car accidents every year is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When police suspect that an impaired driver has caused a collision, they will make the driver perform roadside exercises and take a breath or blood sample to see if criminal charges are necessary.
Accidents must be reported to insurance companies and the police in many cases. A failure to make contact with the other driver and leave the scene of an accident will result in criminal charges. If the police respond and driver attempts to avoid them, they may be charged with obstruction crimes such as fleeing or eluding the police during an investigation.
All states also have laws related to vehicular manslaughter. Manslaughter crimes do not require a specific intent to kill, but rather a prosecutor must show that the suspect acted with reckless disregard for human life. These charges are commonly brought against drunk drivers or others who are speeding well in excess of the posted speed limit when they cause a deadly accident.
Penalties for all of these criminal charges will vary by state, but criminal behavior that results in extensive property damage, serious injuries, or death will usually result in felony charges. If you are charged with a crime following a car accident, you should retain a criminal defense attorney to help you fight against the state’s charges.
Accidents that are not criminal
When a driver makes a mistake such as not braking and stopping in time or taking their eyes off the road for a few seconds, these behaviors do cause accidents. However, minor mistakes will not result in any kind of criminal penalties or traffic citations.
Drivers who make mistakes such as speeding or improper lane changes may receive civil traffic citations that include fines and points on their driving record. These traffic tickets are not criminal charges. Even drivers who receive a lot of tickets will normally only have their license suspended rather than face criminal penalties.
Attorneys are available to help after an accident in your city
If you think you may need assistance with a lawsuit or getting your insurance company to pay out a claim following an accident, contact a local lawyer who practices in this area. USAttorneys.com provides a directory of legal professionals in each state.