Is Leaving the Scene of an Accident a Criminal Charge in Missouri?

When an accident happens – whether you caused it or you were a victim – you are required by law to safely stop, call the police, and exchange your contact and insurance information with the other driver. But sometimes, even if you follow all the rules of the road in normal circumstances and have an impeccable driving record, you might decide to leave the car accident site. However, driving away from an accident scene without fulfilling the legal obligations is a criminal offense in Missouri.

Photo of a Man in Handcuffs

Hit-and-Run Charges in Missouri: What Does the Law Say?

Missouri law mandates that a driver involved in a motor vehicle accident must:

Stop at the scene

The driver must immediately pull up as close to the crash site as possible but do so in a way that does not block traffic any more than it has to.

Exchange information

Next, all drivers involved should share their personal and vehicle information with each other. You need to give and get details like your full name, where you live (city and street number), your driver operator’s license number, vehicle registration information, and insurance details.

Help injured parties

If the other driver or their passengers have sustained any physical injury, you must provide “reasonable assistance.” If it is obvious that someone needs to see a doctor or go to the hospital, and especially if they are asking for help – you must render whatever assistance you can. This could mean making the emergency call if the injured cannot do it, or in some situations, even driving them to the hospital if waiting for an ambulance is not safe.

Report the accident

Finally, you must report the accident to local police, the county sheriff, or the Missouri Highway Patrol right away if:

  • Anyone is injured or passes away.
  • There is property damage over $500.
  • You hit a parked vehicle and cannot find the owner.

If the accident involves an uninsured driver and meets any of the criteria above, you must report it to the state’s Director of Revenue within 30 days. If it is a minor collision, and a law enforcement officer does not come to the scene, you should still exchange information with the other driver, take some photos for evidence, and then head to the nearest law enforcement agency office to report the accident.

Criminal Consequences of Leaving an Accident Scene in Missouri 

Leaving the scene of an accident in Missouri is generally a class A misdemeanor, which comes with criminal penalties of up to one year in jail, driver’s license suspension, and a fine of $1,000 if you are convicted.

The situation gets more complicated if the accident results in serious injuries, if the damage to the other vehicle is more than $1,000, or if you have previously been convicted for another hit and run. Under these conditions, the charge could be elevated to a class E felony, which can result in up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. 

In rare hit and run accidents, such as when it causes a death, the charge becomes a class D felony. Being convicted of a class D felony for leaving the scene can lead to up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

If you are found guilty, your driver’s license could get an additional 12-16 points, which is enough to lose your driving privileges in Missouri. This kind of conviction is also a red flag for insurance companies, so your auto insurance rates are likely to go up. Moreover, if driving is important for your job duties, a hit-and-run record can make it hard to keep your job or find a new one in the same field.

Consult Our Hit-and-Run Criminal Defense Attorneys in Missouri 

If you are facing charges as a hit and run driver – whether or not the accident occurred due to your fault – do not admit anything to the police. Calmly inform them that you wish to remain silent until you have a chance to speak with your lawyer. At the first opportunity, get in touch with our criminal defense attorneys at Kirsch & Kirsch, LLC

Backed by our deep understanding of the criminal justice system in Missouri and our extensive legal skills and resources, we will mount a powerful defense to protect your future. Reach us online or call us at 573-222-0826 to book an appointment.