defending felony and misdemeanor hit & run charges in Northern Virginia
The firm has defended numerous felony and misdemeanor hit & run charges, sometimes associated with DUI and other allegations.
Hit & Run Generally
The statutes governing the duty of drivers to stop and provide personal information at the scene of an accident are set out in Virginia Code §§46.2-894 to 46.2-901.
Hit & run accidents involving “attended property” are the most serious. Under Virginia Code §46.2-894, leaving the scene of accident involving attended property is punished by as “a Class 5 felony if the accident results in injury to or the death of any person, or if the accident results in more than $1000 of damage to property or  a Class 1 misdemeanor if the accident results in damage of $1000 or less to property.”
Hit & run accidents involving unattended property are less seriously punished. An accident involving unattended property is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor if the amount of property damage is more than $250, otherwise, it is a punished a class 4 misdemeanor. Virginia Code § 46.2-900 provides the penalties for a person convicted of hit & run involving unattended property:
If such accident results only in damage to property, the person so convicted shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor; however, if the vehicle or other property struck is unattended and such damage is less than $250, such person shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor. Va. Code §46.2-390
Hit & Run – Loss of License
Virginia Code §46.2-391 states that a defendant’s license, upon conviction of hit & run, may be suspended “if such accident resulted only in damage to property and such damage exceeded $500, by suspension of his license or privilege to operate a motor vehicle on the highways of the Commonwealth for a period not to exceed six months by the court.”
A felony conviction for hit & run, however, will likely result in an administrative license revocation of 1-year by DMV. Under Virginia Code §46.2-389, a person’s privilege to drive will be so revoked, among other offenses, for felony convictions involving an automobile and hit & run accidents involving injury:
Any crime punishable as a felony under the motor vehicle laws of the Commonwealth or any other felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle is used; Va. Code §46.2-389(A)(5).
Failure to stop and disclose his identity at the scene of the accident, on the part of a driver of a motor vehicle involved in an accident resulting in the death of or injury to another person; Va. Code §46.2-389(A)(6).
Some general defenses to hit & run include 1) inadequate proof of damage, if there are no injuries, 2) whether the defendant had actual knowledge of the harm, 3) proof the defendant was “involved in an accident,” and 4) identity of the defendant allegedly involved in the accident.
Sometimes a prosecutor and/or hit & run victim will not be prepared to offer, to a court’s satisfaction, an admissible damage figure without testimony from a repair shop. This defense may arise in the form of a hearsay objection when a victim has not yet paid to repair a vehicle, or the vehicle damage was paid for by insurance.
However, lay opinion by a property owner is generally admissible as to its value. Lester v. Commonwealth, 30 Va.App. 495, 504-05, 518 S.E.2d 318, 322 (1999)(upholding conviction for grand larceny where victim testified as to value of jewelry and other property belonging to her, which had been stolen from her residence).
This leaves open the possibility an owner, to prove $1000 or more in damage for instance, could testify to a vehicle’s value prior to it being damaged, and then testify to its present value after an accident—with the difference being the damage figure. It should be kept in mind that in dealing with vehicles and other property that loses value over time, there must also be “due allowance for elements of depreciation.” Dunn v. Commonwealth, 222 Va. 704, 705, 284 S.E.2d 792, 792 (1981) (reversing grand larceny conviction where Commonwealth introduced no evidence 10-year typewriter, originally purchased for $150, had maintained its value; indicating originally purchase price may be evidence of value, but there also must be “due allowance for the elements of depreciation”)(internal citations omitted).
A blue book value of a vehicle may be introduced into evidence per Virginia Code §8.01-419.1.
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