Have you been accused or charged with leaving the scene of an accident better known as a “hit-and-run”? If so, you should know your rights and legal obligations. A hit-and-run can turn in to a very serious offence and could place someone in jail.
Basically, a hit-and-run means you (1) do not stop your vehicle and/or do not give your name and address when you are involved in an automobile accident or you (2) do not provide assistance to an injured person or a person that seems to need help when you are involved in an automobile accident. A criminal lawyer defending an individual charged with committing a hit-and-run must ask several investigative questions. What evidence is there that the charged person omitted stopping with the intention of avoiding their civil or criminal responsibility? Can the Prosecutor prove who was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident? Was it an accident as defined by jurisprudence? Do the explanations provided by the person charged make up a defense to this charge? There are also other questions.
Section 252 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada (The Code) entitled “Failure to stop at scene of accident” states that:
“Every person commits an offence who has the care, charge or control of a vehicle…that is involved in an accident with another person, [or] a vehicle, and with intent to escape civil or criminal liability fails to stop the vehicle, give his or her name and address and, where any person has been injured or appears to require assistance, offer assistance.” [edited]
Section 252 (1.1) states that the accused can be guilty of an offence punishable up to 6 months (summary conviction) or get up to 5 years in prison with an indictable offence. It is possible to get an absolute dischage as a sentence in case of a conviction. However, if the offence involves bodily harm, the maximum sentence is increased to 10 years (Section 252 (1.2)) and in case of death, the accused may get life imprisonment (Section 252 (1.3)). So it’s important to know how bad the injuries are.
According to the court in R v Chase 2005 BCCA 275, there is no requirement of actual injury or damage to the vehicle to be obligated to stop at the scene of an accident and leave a name and address even if there is no occupant. The Code states that you are presumed guilty “in the absence of evidence to the contrary,” of an intent to escape civil or criminal liability when you fail to stop and give your name (section 252 (2)). The Crown merely needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
1) the accused had the care, charge or control of a vehicle;
2) that the vehicle was involved in an accident;
3) the accident was with either (i) another person or (ii) a vehicle;
4) the accused, with the intent to escape civil or criminal liability failed to:
a) stop the vehicle;
b) give his or her name and address; and
c) where any person has been injured or appears to require assistance, offer assistance.
The doctrines of paramountcy and concurrency govern the interaction of the federal and provincial laws. Therefore, if convicted under the Code, and as a result a provincial statue as well, the stricter of the two penalties will apply and they will likely run concurrently (Ross v. Registrar of Motor Vehicles(1975, SCC)). For example, if you were given a license suspension of 1.5 years and the province automatically gave only 1 year, then 1.5 years would the length of your suspension.
The Highway Safety Code (QHSC) governs the interaction of motorists in the province. Section 168 states that an individual must remain or return to the scene “and render the necessary assistance to any person who has sustained injury or damage”. If someone is injured, the driver must also call a police officer (section 169) and it is this police officer that will take the drivers information – as opposed to exchanging information with others in the accident (section 170). Section 180 states that as soon as an individual is convicted of an offence under section 252(1) of the Code, the QHSC automatically administers a:
1) Revocation of a learner’s license, probationary license or driver’s license and
2) Suspension of the right to get a license.
This means, depending on how many penalties one has, a license can be suspended anywhere from 1-5 years and the individual can receive a fine anywhere from $200-$2000 (section 76, 178, 179). Note, there is no jail time to be served under Quebec law.
If you’ve been charged with a hit-and-run, and are not sure of your options for beating it, speaking to a team of lawyers with experience defending individuals is a sound first step.