In Virginia, hit & run charges are very serious. The Virginia Code divides Hit & Run charges into two different scenarios: when you’ve struck attended property (someone was in the car) and unattended property. Your duties and the possible consequences depend on which situation you encountered.
What should you do if you struck an occupied vehicle?
If you were in a car accident and someone was in the other car, you need to read Virginia Code Section 46.2-894. That section says:
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident in which a person is killed or injured or in which an attended vehicle or other attended property is damaged shall immediately stop as close to the scene of the accident as possible without obstructing traffic, as provided in § 46.2-888, and report his name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number forthwith to the State Police or local law-enforcement agency, to the person struck and injured if such person appears to be capable of understanding and retaining the information, or to the driver or some other occupant of the vehicle collided with or to the custodian of other damaged property. The driver shall also render reasonable assistance to any person injured in such accident, including taking such injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital if it is apparent that medical treatment is necessary or is requested by the injured person.
Stated another way, if you hit an occupied car in Virginia, you must:
1) Stop as close to the accident as possible without obstructing traffic;
2) Provide your name, address, driver’s license number and vehicle registration number immediately;
3) To either: the police, the injured person(s), or the custodian of the other car; and
4) Provide reasonable assistant to any injured person(s).
What if you violate this section?
There are very serious consequences in Virginia. You face a Class 5 Felony you injured or killed someone or caused more than $1,000 in proper damage. If the accident results in only property damage of $1,000 or less, you face Class I Misdemeanor.
What if you didn’t know that someone was injured when you hit an occupied car?
This issue came up in the case of Neel v. Commonwealth. The defendant was convicted of felony hit and run after being involved in a fender bender. As it turned out, the driver of the car he rear-ended had prior spine injuries, which were exacerbated due to this accident.
He was convicted by his trial court. Later, his conviction was overturned because the evidence demonstrated that he did not know (nor did he have reason to know) that the other person was injured.
However, if you strike a car with someone in it, stop. Go and check on them. Provide them your insurance information. And wait for law enforcement to arrive. If you leave the scene unaware that they were injured, you may have a defense to felony hit and run at trial. But it’s still at least a misdemeanor. And the defendant in Neel had to go through a full trial and appeal, and a different set of judges may have found against him.
What if you hit unattended property? (For instance, a parked car?)
Virginia Code Section 46.2-896 deals with hitting unattended property. That section provides:
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident in which no person is killed or injured, but in which an unattended vehicle or other unattended property is damaged, shall make a reasonable effort to find the owner or custodian of such property and shall report to the owner or custodian the information which the driver is required to report pursuant to § 46.2-894 if such owner or custodian is found. If the owner or custodian of such damaged vehicle or property cannot be found, the driver shall leave a note or other sufficient information including driver identification and contact information in a conspicuous place at the scene of the accident and shall report the accident in writing within 24 hours to the State Police or the local law-enforcement agency. Such note or other information and written report shall contain the information that the driver is required to report pursuant to § 46.2-894. The written report shall, in addition, state the date, time, and place of the accident and the driver’s description of the property damage.
Stated another way, when you hit unattended property, you must:
1) Make a reasonable effort to find the owner and report the damage;
2) Leave a note with your information if you can’t find the owner; and
3) Within 24 hours, report the accident to the appropriate law enforcement.
If I hit a parked car, can’t I just leave? No one will ever know…right?
Here’s what we think – do the right thing. First, try to find the owner. If it’s a parked car outside of a house, knock on the door. If it’s a mailbox outside of a townhouse, knock on the door.
If you can’t find the owner make, sure to do two things. First, leave a note with your name, address, phone number, your insurance company, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number. Second, contact law enforcement immediately. But certainly not more than 24 hours.
Is it possible that if you just leave, you might get away with it? Sure. But you also may get caught like the defendant in Smith v. Commonweatlh. There, he hit a funeral home garage door with his car, and someone happened to see it. He was later charged.
The Virginia Supreme Court ultimately overturned the defendant’s conviction when they essentially couldn’t prove that “he didn’t leave a note.” But we strongly believe this outcome could have easily been different with different judges. This is why you buy car insurance.
What is the punishment for hit and run of unattended property?
Virginia Code Section 46.2-900 provides that if the property damage is $250 or more, the punishment is a Class I misdemeanor. However, if the damage is less than $250, it’s a Class IV misdemeanor. It also provides for 3 demerit points with the Virginia DMV.
Well, James, I’ve already been charged with hit & run. What should I do now?
We understand that, if you’re reading this article, you may already be facing a charge of Hit & Run. As is clear from above, these are very serious charges. So make sure to reach out to Abrenio Law for your Free Consultation. You can reach us at Ph. 703-570-4180. You can also learn about Owner James Abrenio here.
 If you’re injured in the accident, depending on your circumstances, the Code requires you to make a reasonable effort to abide by the law.
 The Code section provides an exception where a driver is prevented from reporting the accident due to injury from the accident. In this case, the driver is to make reasonable efforts to report and find the custodian of the property.