Car accidents are scary. And if you’ve been drinking prior to getting in an accident, your first instinct after a DWI car accident might be to leave the scene. However, you’ll probably want to fight that impulse. What actually qualifies as a hit-and-run in Texas and what are the hit-and-run penalties? Is the penalty harsher if it’s a DWI hit-and-run in Texas? And can your hit-and-run be dismissed?
Let’s take a few minutes to cover the Texas hit-and-run basics.
Defining hit-and-runs in Texas
How do you define a hit-and-run in Texas? A hit-and-run in Texas occurs when a driver hits something (like another car or person or even a building), leaves the scene, and fails to provide information or aid.
Interestingly, hit-and-run accidents are not actually called hit-and-runs in Texas’ legal parlance. Rather, these offenses are called: Failure to Stop and Give Information (FSGI) and Failure to Stop and Render Aid (FSRA)
No matter what they’re called, neither hit-and-runs nor a DWI hit-and-runs are taken lightly in Texas. Both are a serious offense with some pretty steep consequences.
Hit-and-run + DWI hit-and-run charges
The consequences for leaving the scene of an accident become graver depending on the sobriety and overall state of the driver and whether or not a person was hurt (and how badly that person was hurt).
- If you hit an unoccupied vehicle, do not leave the vehicle until the owner is located or attempt to find the owner yourself. For example, if you hit a car in the parking lot of a restaurant, enter the restaurant to see if you can locate the vehicle’s owner.
- If the owner cannot be located, leave your contact information, as well as your insurance information on the windshield of the vehicle. You will also want to take photos of the damage and potentially talk to anyone who witnessed the accident. If possible, get their contact information, too. This could help you clear up any discrepancies later down the road.
- Contact your insurance company and fill them in on the situation.
- If you hit an occupied vehicle, get out of your car and check to see if any of the passengers in the other car need aid. If the accident obstructs traffic or has caused harm to another person, contact authorities immediately. Do not leave the scene without exchanging contact information and making sure everyone is taken care of.
- If you hit a building, road sign, or another object, take photos of the damage and contact authorities or the owner of the building. For example, if you hit a fence outside a home, you must take “reasonable steps” to notify the homeowner of the damage and to provide them with your information.
If you don’t take any of the above steps and you leave the scene instead, then there are consequences. Let’s take a look at hit-and-run penalties.
How much jail time do you get for a hit-and-run (FSRA or FSGI)?
If you fail to stop and provide aid after a car accident, the penalties can be severe and can even land you a 20-year prison sentence.
Here’s what you can expect, if convicted:
- Class C Misdemeanor: FSGI hit and run cases in which a minor accident causes less than $200.00 in property damage. Results in no jail time a fine up to $500.
- State Jail Felony: FSGI and FSRA cases in which an an accident causes minor injuries. Results in 180 days – 2 years of jail time and a fine of up to $10,000.
- 3rd Degree Felony: FSGI or FSRA cases in which an an accident either hurt or severely injured someone. Results in 2-10 years of jail time and a fine up to $10,000. If the individual dies, the charges can be bumped up to 2nd Degree Felony with a potential 20-year prison sentence.
- If it’s a DWI hit-and-run, then you’ll want to check out our article on the penalties for intoxication manslaughter in Texas)
There are some instances where these penalties might be harsher. For example, if you were driving recklessly or if it’s a DWI hit-and-run. In this case, if there’s a lawsuit, any damages awarded to the victim will likely be tripled (which will not be covered by insurance).
In most cases, you may be facing a Texas driver’s license suspension — especially if it’s a DWI hit-and-run.
How do you fight a DWI hit-and-run charge?
While it can be difficult, a DWI hit-and-run charge can be dismissed. One common tactic for dismissal is working with your lawyer to prove that you were not aware of the accident. It’s entirely possible to think you hit a pothole or debris in the road and discover later that it was actually a person. It’s also possible to be driving a vehicle so large that rear-ending a smaller vehicle is hardly noticeable.
That said, if you’re slapped with a hit-and-run charge, the first thing you need is a lawyer, and a good one too. Frankly, if no-one is hurt and you don’t need to call 9-1-1, you should consider calling your lawyer before you contact your insurance company or tell the police anything.
Why? The prosecution will need to prove that you were the driver who caused the accident, which means the more you can minimize your involvement, the easier it will be to fight your case. If you’ve already spoken to the police or your insurance company about your involvement, then this will be much more difficult. Let your lawyer handle all of this instead.
If you want to learn about trial attorneys and why you might need one, take a look at our article: What is a Trial Lawyer?
Thiessen Law Firm knows how to fight DWI hit-and-run charges
Can a DWI hit-and-run charge be dismissed? With the aggressive and professional team at Thiessen Law Firm, yes, absolutely. Designated Super Lawyer and board-certified criminal defense attorney Mark Thiessen is here with trial-tested strategies and deep DWI expertise to help you overcome a hit-and-run charge in Texas.
Don’t take chances with your freedom. Give us a call at 713-864-9000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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