What would you do in the event of a car accident? What if your license was suspended and you weren’t supposed to be driving at the time? Or, if you knew you didn’t have car insurance? Would you panic and flee the scene if no other people were involved?
You might be surprised to know that cars get hit in parking lots all the time. In addition, it is a misdemeanor to hit a parked car and drive away without attempting to contact the owner.
But, what about if you hit a person and drive away?
The Elicia E. Graham Hit and Run Case
Elicia E. Graham, 50, of Bay City, Michigan recently pled no contest to a two-year high court misdemeanor: attempted assault with a dangerous weapon. She has been accused of crashing into an 8-year-old girl in a Walmart parking lot and then driving away on December 9, 2015.
Graham took a plea deal to plead no contest and had two other charges revoked or denied:
- Operating a motor vehicle while license suspended.
- Failure to stop at the scene of a collision resulting in serious impairment or death.
Both of the latter charges carry penalties of up to 5 years in prison. Graham is scheduled to be sentenced in March.
Because she pleaded no contest, Graham did not have to verbally admit guilt. Evidence against her had to come from witness statements, police records, and camera footage.
According to reports, on the afternoon of December 9th, 8-year-old Trinity Bailor was moving a shopping cart from a parking space for her father, Andrew Bailor, when she and her cart were hit by a driver going the other direction. Trinity was struck by the front passenger side of the driver’s car.
The driver initially kept driving, then stopped 50 yards away, and momentarily sat still.
Trinity suffered three broken fingers, a broken thumb, two severed fingertips and missing fingernails, and road rash to her back and leg. Her fingertips were able to be re-attached.
Michigan State Police then used Walmart’s surveillance footage and information from Graham’s debit card purchase in the store to identify and track her down.
Consequences for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
In Graham’s case, she is fortunate to receive a plea deal, and that the girl wasn’t more injured. Leaving the scene of the accident turns the accident into a felony crime. This can carry a 15 year prison sentence and a fine of $10,000.
Therefore, even if you accidentally cause the death of someone else with your car, you are much more likely to receive a less harsh penalty if you stay than if you drive away from the scene and caught later.
For example, a misdemeanor charge of moving violation causing death carries a penalty of up to only 1 year in prison and/or up to $2,000 in penalties.
It has been estimated that over 50% of people in the Detroit, Pontiac, and Flint areas are operating cars without insurance. Additionally, 10% of accidents in Michigan are hit and run accidents – probably for this reason.
You may be afraid that your insurance coverage will be more expensive if you report an accident. However, if the company finds an unreported accident after the fact, it may drop your coverage altogether. It will be much harder to regain insurance coverage after that.
People who get in car accidents sometimes panic when they know they’ve made a mistake and try to run away from it. You may not realize how many witnesses saw what happened, that there were cameras recording your accident, or even – as in Graham’s case – that police can track you down using other means like purchase receipts.
It is always better to stay at the scene of an accident. If you are facing charges of this nature, it’s important to take it seriously even if you didn’t cause the death of another person. It is also crucial that you have experienced legal counsel. Please call my office today.