Failure to Stop and Render Aid
If you were involved in a motor vehicle accident and then left the scene, you might be under investigation for the criminal offense of "Failure to Stop and Render Aid." This offense is often called leaving the scene of a crash, hit and run, or hit and skip. Texas law for leaving the scene of a crash is unforgiving.
Don't compound your mistake by just waiting for the police to knock on your door. Instead, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you assert your rights so that you are protected during the investigation.
Once you hire an attorney, that attorney can contact the law enforcement officer conducting the investigation so that they do not come to your home to interrogate you about the facts of the case. You have a right to remain silent once a criminal investigation begins. You also have the right to hire an experienced attorney to represent you at every stage of the case.
Attorney for Failing to Stop and Render Aid in Austin, TX
If you were involved in a hit and run accident in or around Travis County or Austin, TX, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at The Law Office of Kevin Bennett. Kevin Bennett is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can represent you on a criminal traffic offense such as driving while license invalid (suspended), reckless driving, or evading arrest in a motor vehicle.
Call (512) 476-4626 today to discuss your case.
Penalties for Failing to Stop and Render Aid in Texas
The crime of "hit and run" can be charged under one of several different statutory provisions in Texas. The way the crime is charged depends on the allegations. For example, the charge depends on whether the accident involves unattended property, a parked and unoccupied motor vehicle, another moving and occupied motor vehicle, personal injury, serious bodily injury or death.
Hit and Run with Property Damage to an Occupied Vehicle
Under § 550.022 of the Tex. Transp. Code Ann., it is a crime to leave the scene of a crash involving damage to another vehicle. The statute requires the driver of any vehicle involved in the crash to:
- Stop the motor vehicle at the scene of the crash or as close to the scene without obstructing more traffic than necessary; and
- Remain at the scene until certain requirements have been met.
Texas law allows the driver of the vehicle to move to a safe location nearby if the accident occurs on an area adjacent to a freeway in a metropolitan area such as the median, shoulder, ramp or main lane. In those cases the driver can move the vehicles to a suitable location where they can exchange information with minimal interference with freeway traffic.
Hit and Run with a Parked Car
Under Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 550.024, a driver who hits a parked car must stop immediately and find the owner of the car that was hit or leave a note for the owner of the car giving the name and address of the individual who hit the car in a noticeable place.
Hit and Run with Unattended Property
Under Section 550.025 of the Texas Transportation Code requires an individual who is involved in an accident that results only in damage to unattended property such as a fixture or landscaping on or next to a highway is required to take reasonable steps to find and notify the owner or person in charge of the property and give them information required after an accident.
Hit and Run with Injury or Death
The most serious offense is being involved in a "hit and run" that involves bodily injury, serious bodily injury or death charged under Tex. Transp. Code § 550.021. This version of hit and run is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed $5,000, if any bodily injury results from the accident.
In Texas, the crime of failure to stop and render aid is charged as a Third-Degree Felony if it is proven that serious bodily injury results from the accident.
The crime of failure to stop and render aid is charged as a Second-Degree Felony if it is proven that death results from the accident.
Read more about the penalties for hit and run accidents involving injury or death in Austin, TX, or the surrounding areas near Travis County.
Penalties for Hit and Run for Accidents Involving Injury or Death
The crime of hit and run in Texas is charged under Tex. Transp. Code § 550.021. The crime is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment for up to 5 years or one year in the county Jail and a fine not to exceed $5,000, if any bodily injury results from the accident.
The crime of failure to stop and render aid is a Third-Degree Felony if it is proven that serious bodily injury results from the accident.
The crime of failure to stop and render aid is a Second-Degree Felony if it is proven that death results from the accident.
Elements of Failing to Stop and Render Aid under Section 550.021
The elements of section 550.021, require the prosecutor for the State of Texas to prove the following elements beyond all reasonable doubt. A person commits an offense of failing to stop and render aid after a motor vehicle accident, if:
- the defendant was the driver or operator of any vehicle involved in the accident;
- the defendant was intentionally or knowingly involved in an accident;
- the accident resulted in injury to or death of any person;
- it was apparent that medical treatment was necessary; and
- the defendant failed to render reasonable assistance by doing one of the following:
- immediately stoping such vehicle at the scene of such accident or as close to the scene as possible; and
- failing to immediately return to the scene of the accident if the vehicle is not stopped at the scene of the accident; and
- failing to remain at the scene of the accident and render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the carrying or the making of arrangements for the carrying of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment, if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such carrying is requested by the injured person.
The focus of this offense is that an accident occurred: "a culpable mental state must attach to this circumstance, i.e., whether an accident occurred." Huffman v. State, 267 S.W.3d 902, 908 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008).
In McGuire v. State, 493 S.W.3d 177, 205 (Tex. App.–Houston [1st Dist.] 2016, pet. ref'd), the court held that the culpable mental state for failure to stop and render aid is that defendant “had knowledge of the circumstances surrounding his conduct, meaning the defendant had knowledge that an accident occurred”.
For this reason, the failure to stop, return, or remain becomes criminal only because of his knowledge of circumstances surrounding the conduct which is that an accident and a victim suffering an injury.
The prosecutor can establish the culpable mental state "if an objective examination of the facts shows that it would be apparent to a reasonable person that someone has been injured in an accident and is in need of reasonable assistance."McGuire, 493 S.W.3d at 205.
In McCown, 192 S.W.3d at 162–63, the court found that “[C]onstructive knowledge of the resulting injury is sufficient.” The prosecutor is not necessarily required to present evidence that the defendant had positive, subjective knowledge.
In these cases for hit and run, the intent or knowledge required under the statute may be inferred from the acts, words, and conduct of an accused at the time of an offense.
Alternative Methods of Proving the Failure to Stop and Render Aid
Texas law provides for several different ways that the crime of failing to stop and render aid can be proven at trial. These different statutory methods of committing the offense do not constitute separate offenses.
Instead, each alternative is just a different way of proving the offense. In Huffman v. State, 267 S.W.3d 902 (Tex. Crim.App. 2008), the court found that the trial judge is permitted to tell the jury about the different statutory methods of proving the offense in the disjunctive.
Defenses in a Hit and Run Case in Texas
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was intentionally or knowingly involved in an accident and failed to stop and render aid as required by Texas Transportation Code section 550.021. In many of these cases, the driver doesn't actually realize that he or she was involved in an accident, especially if the vehicles did not actually collide. In other words, there must be evidence that the defendant knew he had been involved in an accident.
In many of these cases, the driver doesn't actually realize that he or she was involved in an accident, especially if the vehicles did not actually collide. In other words, there must be evidence that the defendant knew he had been involved in an accident.
However, if you voluntarily became intoxicated by alcohol before the accident, you should be aware the "voluntary intoxication" is not a defense to the charge. In fact, the use of alcohol immediately prior to the offense might be sufficient to justify the trial court's inclusion of an instruction on voluntary intoxication in the jury charge.
Definitions under the Hit and Run Statute in Texas
A person commits an offense only if he voluntarily engages in conduct, including an act or an omission. “Act” means a bodily movement, whether voluntary or involuntary, and includes speech. “Omission” means failure to act.
Under Texas law for a hit and run case, a person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to circumstances surrounding his conduct when he is aware of the nature of his conduct or that the circumstances exist.
“Serious bodily injury” means bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
“Bodily injury” means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.
Voluntary Intoxication Instruction in Texas
In many of these cases, the defendant leaves the scene because he or she has consumed alcohol. The consumption of alcohol might make the defendant less aware that the accident occurred. Does being intoxicated constitute a defense to the crime?
In cases in which this might be an issue, the prosecutor will often request a special instruction that voluntary intoxication is not a defense. The problem with this instruction is that it implies to the jury that the defendant might have been intoxicated.
When deemed appropriate, the trial court will tell the jury about the voluntary intoxication defense by tracking the language of Penal Code section 8.04 which provides:
“Voluntary intoxication does not constitute a defense to the crime. ‘Intoxication’ means disturbance of mental or physical capacity resulting from the introduction of any substance into the body.” See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 8.04(a), (d) (West 2011).
An instruction on voluntary intoxication “is appropriate if there is evidence from any source that might lead a jury to conclude that the defendant's intoxication somehow excused his actions.” Sakil v. State, 287 S.W.3d 23, 26 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009) (internal citations omitted).
In Taylor v. State, 885 S.W.2d 154, 158 (Tex. Crim. App. 1994), the court held that that defendant need not rely upon intoxication as defense before trial court may instruct jury regarding voluntary intoxication.
Additionally, the evidence need not unequivocally establish that the defendant was intoxicated before such an instruction is proper. Sakil, 287 S.W.3d at 27.
A voluntary-intoxication instruction may be appropriate “even when only ‘slight’ evidence suggested that a defendant's actions were precipitated” by intoxication. Id. at 27 n.10 (citing Taylor, 885 S.W.2d at 158).
Finding a Lawyer for a Hit and Run Case in Austin, TX
If you were charged by indictment with failure to stop and render aid alleged to have been committed in Austin or Travis County, Texas, or if you are under investigation for this offense, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at The Law Office of Kevin Bennett.
Kevin Bennett can represent you at every stage of the case by contacting law enforcement on your behalf so that they do not come to your house to question you. He can also help you deal with your insurance company and the insurance company for anyone else injured in the accident.
Kevin Bennett represents clients charged with a variety of serious motor vehicle or traffic rimes including DUI, racing, reckless driving, and driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license.
Call (512) 476-4626 today.
This article was last updated on Friday, September 15, 2017.