My 22-year old daughter was involved in a minor accident and doesn’t know if she caused damage to the parked car she hit. She left the parking area without leaving her contact information and now she’s wondering what she should do. Can you please explain the law regarding this situation and her legal responsibilities? Thanks.
In order for the Commonwealth to prove that your daughter left the scene of an accident the Commonwealth must prove the following 5 things beyond a reasonable doubt.
First, that the defendant operated a motor vehicle;
Second, that she operated it on a way or in a place where the public has a right of access, or in a place where members of the public have access as invitees or licensees;
Third, that she knew that while she was operating the vehicle, she collided with, or caused injury in some other way, to another vehicle or property;
Fourth, that she had collided with, or caused injury in some other way, to another vehicle or property; and
Fifth, that after such collision or injury, the defendant did not stop and make known her name, home address, and the registration number of her motor vehicle.
The Commonwealth must prove that the defendant “knowingly” collided with or otherwise caused injury to another vehicle or property. This requires the defendant to have known either that she had been involved in a collision or that she had caused such injury in some other way. Note that these are alternatives. If the defendant knew that she had been in a collision, it is not necessary that she also knew that an injury had resulted from the collision. It is also not necessary that the defendant intended to violate the law.
If your daughter knows that she collided with something even if she did not cause any property damage then she could have committed the offense of leaving the scene of an accident. If she did not know she collided with anything then she did not commit the offense.
By reporting the matter now to the authorities she would incriminate herself and based on her admission the police could charge her criminally. I would advise her to remain silent, invoke her 5th amendment right to remain silent and her 6th amendment right to counsel if approached by the police and contact an attorney immediately.
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