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Hit and Run Involving Injury or Death

If you left the scene of a traffic crash, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Austin, TX. Although most of these cases involve a crash with unattended property such as a fence or mailbox, the offenses can also involve a crash with a parked vehicle, a moving and occupied vehicle, or even a pedestrian.

The most serious penalties are reserved for cases involving death or serious bodily injury, but even a case involving unattended property or a parked car is a criminal offense that comes with criminal penalties.

An experienced attorney can help you deal with the criminal investigation. After your attorney contacts the investigating officer, the officer will not be permitted to come to your home or office for the purpose of interrogating you about the crime. An attorney can help you assert your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney representing you at every stage of the case.

This article discusses the consequences of charges for failing to stop and render aid if anyone was injured in the crash. If your case involves just property damage, then click here to read more about misdemeanor crimes for hit and run.

Attorney for Failing to Render Aid in Austin, TX

If you were involved in a hit and run accident that might have involve an injury to another person in Austin or Travis County, Texas, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at The Law Office of Kevin Bennett.

Attorney Kevin Bennett can help you at every stage of the case. He can contact the investigating officer and help you deal with the insurance companies that will resolve any civil claim for money damages.

Call today for a free consultation. To speak with Kevin Bennett over the phone or to set an appointment for an office visit, call (512) 476-4626.


Penalties for Failing to Stop under Tex. Transp. Code § 550.021

If you hit a person or object with your motor vehicle, you have a responsibility to stop your vehicle at the scene and take all reasonable steps to required by the law. Your duties are determined by the nature of the accident and can include a requirement to leave a note, exchanging information, or rendering aid.  

The crime of failing to stop is often called "hit and run" or "hit and skip." In some states, the crime is called "leaving the scene of a crash." The penalties for this offense can range from a misdemeanor in a second degree to a more serious second-degree felony if anyone is seriously injured. 

The crime of failure to stop and render aid under Tex. Transp. Code § 550.021 is charged as a Third-Degree Felony if it can be 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:

  1. defendant was the driver or operator of any vehicle involved in the accident;
  2. defendant was intentionally or knowingly involved in an accident;
  3. the accident resulted in injury to or death of any person;
  4. it was apparent that medical treatment was necessary; and
  5. defendant failed to render reasonable assistance by doing one of the following:
    • immediately stopping 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 a defense before trial court may instruct the jury regarding voluntary intoxication. Additionally, the evidence need not unequivocally establish that the defendant was intoxicated before such an instruction is proper.

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 crimes including DWI (drunk driving), street racing on the roadway, 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.