The offense of Fail to Remain or Fail to Stop is more commonly known to the general public as “hit and run”.
The Duties of Driver
The law imposes three duties on anyone who operates a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or railway equipment, collectively now called “conveyance”, which is involved in an accident with another person or conveyance. Those duties are:
- stop the conveyance;
- give your name and address; and
- where any person has been injured or appears to require assistance, offer assistance.
If any one of the above three duties are not met and the accused knows or is reckless as to whether he was involved in an accident or when any one of them is not met without reasonable excuse, the accused is guilty of “hit and run” with a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment. If in the same circumstances, the accused knows or is reckless as to whether the accident resulted in bodily harm to another person, the maximum punishment goes up to 14 years and if the accused knows or is reckless as to whether the accident resulted in death or bodily harm was caused to another person involved in the accident whose death ensues, the maximum punishment goes all the way up to life imprisonment.
What Do I Do If I’m Charged?
So, what do you do if you are charged with “hit and run”? Run to the lawyer, of course. Why? Because as grave as the offense sounds, there are potential defenses to any offense which have to be explored before or rather instead of giving up.
Other Person or Conveyance
First of all, I had several cases where my clients were charged with this offense although they were not even involved in an accident with another person or conveyance. For instance, one of them smashed his car into a guard rail and left the scene. After he was found by the police, he was charged with failing to remain at the scene of an accident, but then, this charge was dropped. Unfortunately, the police often misinterpret the meaning of this charge and it takes a lawyer to show to the Crown that it has no case against you.
Who Operated Conveyance?
Also, don’t forget that the Crown must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you don’t have to prove your innocence. In the context of “hit and run” offenses, this means first of all that the Crown must prove you are the person who in fact operated the conveyance. In the chaotic aftermath of an accident, it is often impossible to prove who that person actually was. If such proof is absent, the charge must fail.
Awareness of Accident
In some cases, there is insufficient evidence that you knew you were involved in an accident. Crown has to prove that you knew or were reckless as to the fact of the accident in order to prove your guilt. While in many cases, it is simply impossible to be unaware of the accident, there are situations where the evidence on this point is obscure and susceptible to different interpretations. Suppose a person drives at night on a dark road and runs over something which may be an object but, considering the “quality” of many roads in GTA, maybe simply a surface defect. It turns out that this was actually a pedestrian who was lying on the road for some reason, say drunk or fainted. In these circumstances, you may have a viable defense based on a lack of knowledge that you were involved in an accident. In some cases, however, knowledge may be imputed by the doctrine of “recklessness” or “willful blindness” when the accused has serious suspicion he is involved in an accident but chooses to remain ignorant. Special care must be taken by the defense to refute evidence pointing to this conclusion.
Furthermore, the failure to perform one of the three duties imposed by law may be justified by some circumstances including, for instance, your own injuries, condition of shock and emotional distress, lack of knowledge of English, etc. This can serve as a “reasonable excuse”, which in turn may absolve you of criminal liability.
Every fact is important and all evidence must be carefully considered by an experienced lawyer to provide you the best possible defense in the circumstances of your case.