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Understanding the Indiana Hit and Run Laws

In Indiana, like in many other states, fleeing the scene of an accident can have serious legal consequences. Therefore, it’s essential that every driver has a basic understanding of the Indiana hit and run laws and are aware of their legal obligations when confronted with the unfortunate event of an accident.

This post will provide you with an overview of the Indiana hit and run laws. We’ll decipher what constitutes a hit and run in Indiana and the legal implications of such action. However, if you have already been involved in an accident and/or charged with a crime associated with a hit and run, your best course of action would be to consult with an experienced Indiana criminal defense attorney.

If you’re not sure where to turn, the Indiana traffic attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are available to assist you. Each client who retains our legal representation receives trusted, experienced one-on-one counsel with an attorney whose stated goal is reducing your potential criminal penalties and protecting your driving privileges.

To speak with an attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Looking for a Criminal Defense Attorney in Indiana? Call Keffer Hirschauer LLP Today.

What Constitutes a Hit and Run in Indiana?

The Indiana hit and run laws are defined in Indiana Code 9-26-1-1.1, outlining the duties of a driver involved in an accident. According to this law, a hit and run occurs when the operator of a motor vehicle involved in an accident fails to comply with several key responsibilities.

Immediate Actions Required by the Law:

  • Stop the Vehicle: The driver must immediately stop at the scene or as close as possible in a manner that doesn’t obstruct traffic more than necessary.
  • Remain at the Scene: The driver must stay at the accident scene until they have:
    • Given their name, address, and vehicle registration number to others involved; and
    • Shown their driver’s license to those involved or attending to the vehicles
  • Assist and Report in Case of Injuries: If the accident involves injury or death, the driver must provide reasonable assistance as directed by authorities and report the accident as soon as possible to the local police, county sheriff, state police post, or a 911 operator.
  • Address Unattended Vehicle/Property Damage: In cases involving unattended vehicles or property damage, steps must be taken to locate and notify the owner. If the owner can’t be found, the driver should contact law enforcement.

As clearly stated in this section of traffic law, a person who fails to comply with the duties listed above may be charged with leaving the scene of an accident in Indiana, a Class B misdemeanor by default. Furthermore, if convicted of this offense, the person would have 8 points added to their Indiana driver’s license; a significant amount that may trigger the automatic suspension of their license.

Under some circumstances, a person involved in a hit and run accident in Indiana may be charged with a more serious criminal offense. For instance, if the accident results in bodily injury to another person, they may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. In some situations, the driver may even be charged with a felony offense in Indiana.

  • Level 6 Felony: if serious bodily injury to another person occurs or the offender was charged within five (5) years of a conviction for one of the following offenses:
    • reckless homicide resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle;
    • voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle;
    • failure of the operator of a motor vehicle involved in an accident resulting in death or injury to any person to stop at the scene of the accident and give the required information and assistance; or
    • operation of a vehicle while intoxicated resulting in death; or operation of a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent to at least eight-hundredths (0.08) gram of alcohol resulting in death
  • Level 4 Felony: If the accident results in the death or catastrophic injury of another person
  • Level 3 Felony: if the operator knowingly or intentionally fails to stop or comply with subsection (a) during or after the commission of the offense of operating while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury or operating while intoxicated causing death or catastrophic injury.

As is made clear by the Indiana hit and run laws described above, drivers must take immediate and responsible action when involved in any type of accident; this includes staying at the scene, providing necessary information, aiding the injured, and reporting the incident to authorities. Those who fail to do so will face severe legal consequences and put both their freedom and ability to drive at risk.

Before diving into the potential legal consequences of being convicted under the Indiana hit and run laws, it’s important to understand that Indiana Code 9-26-1-1.1 contains a clause which states that if a hit and run accident results in multiple people being injured or killed, the driver (operator of the motor vehicle) may face a separate criminal charge for each individual victim. For example, if a driver commits a hit and run that injures three people, they could face three separate charges, one for each person injured.

On top of that, the law contains another clause which provides courts the option to order the prison terms for each offense to be served consecutively. This means that instead of serving sentences simultaneously, the offender would serve one sentence after another. For example, if the driver is sentenced to two years for each of the three injured victims (a total of six years), they would serve these sentences one after the other, potentially leading to six years in prison instead of just two. Moreover, the clause specifies that these consecutive sentences are not subject to certain sentencing restrictions outlined in Indiana Code 35-50-1-2(c) through 35-50-1-2(d). This means that the court has more flexibility and can impose longer cumulative sentences than might be allowed under normal circumstances for other types of offenses.

Potential Criminal Penalties for a Hit and Run in Indiana

Those charged with the lowest offense level under the Indiana hit and run laws, a Class B misdemeanor, will face a maximum sentence of 180 days in prison and fines of up to $1,000. However, if the accident resulted in bodily injury, that charge could be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor, which if convicted, could result in a prison sentence of up to one year and fines of up to $5,000.

When a person is involved in a hit and run in Indiana and that accident results in moderate or serious bodily injury to another person, or if the offender has a relevant prior conviction on their record, they may be charged with a Level 6 felony offense. If convicted at this level, the offender could face a maximum prison sentence of 2 years and incur fines of up to $10,000. On top of that, if the hit and run results in death or catastrophic injury, it will be classified as a Level 4 felony. This can carry a sentence of two to twelve years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Finally, in hit and run cases where the driver was intoxicated and caused serious bodily injury or death, the charge is elevated all the way up to a Level 3 felony. This is a very serious criminal charge and has the potential to completely alter a person’s entire life. If convicted of leaving the scene of an accident in Indiana as a Level 3 felony, they may be sentenced to a maximum of sixteen years in prison and fined up to $10,000. Furthermore, under the Indiana expungement laws contained in Indiana Code, if the accident caused the death of another person, the offender would not be able to expunge the offense from their record in the future; thus, permanently forfeiting a handful of civil liberties, like the ability to possess and carry a firearm.

Habitual Traffic Violators

Indiana takes a stringent approach towards habitual traffic violators, as detailed under Indiana Code 9-30-10-4. This statute specifically targets individuals who have demonstrated a pattern of unsafe driving behavior, including those who violate the Indiana hit and run laws. As clearly stated in Indiana Code 9-30-10-4(b), a person who has been convicted of leaving the scene of an accident is at risk of being deemed a habitual traffic violator if they accumulate or have accumulated at least three judgements of the offenses listed below within a ten-year period. These violations can be singular or in combination but must not arise from the same incident.

  • operation of a vehicle while intoxicated
  • operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath
  • reckless driving
  • criminal recklessness involving the operation of a motor vehicle classified as a felony
  • participation in drag racing or speed contests
  • leaving the scene of an accident
  • resisting law enforcement while operating a vehicle; or
  • committing any felony where operating a motor vehicle is a part of the offense.

This designation of being a habitual traffic violator in Indiana can carry significant legal ramifications. For instance, a person who is deemed a habitual traffic violator under Indiana Code 9-30-10-4(b) would have their license automatically suspended for a period of 10 years. On top of that, if they are caught knowingly operating a vehicle while their driving privileges are suspended or knowingly violates restrictions related to their status as a habitual traffic violator, they’ll be charged with a Level 6 felony. Furthermore, if a habitual traffic violator commits an offense, involving their operation of a motor vehicle, that results in serious bodily injury, catastrophic injury or death, they will be charged with a Level 5 felony, in addition to any other criminal charges they face as a result of the incident. In addition, the if the new offense caused catastrophic injury or death, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles shall suspend the person’s driving privileges for life.

Administrative Penalties and Collateral Consequences

In addition to criminal penalties, individuals involved in a hit and run accident in Indiana can also face various administrative penalties. These are typically imposed by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, rather than the criminal court system and can include:

  • Driver’s License Suspension or Revocation: One of the most common administrative penalties for a hit and run is the suspension or revocation of the driver’s license. In fact, under 140 IAC 1-4.5-10(a)(3), leaving the scene of an accident “shall be treated as an accident in excess of $1,000 requiring a mandatory suspension, unless the accident is specifically designated on the abstract of court record or court order as less than $1,000.”
  • Points on Driving Record: According to the point values for Indiana traffic violations, a person convicted under the Indiana hit and run laws will have 8 points added to their driver’s license for the offense. This is a significant amount as The BMV limits Indiana drivers to 20 points on the driver’s license within a twenty-four-month period. Once a driver reaches that 20-point limit, an administrative hearing is set and an automatic suspension is placed upon the driver, based on their total accumulation of Indiana driver’s license points. In addition to the limit of 20 points within 24 months, the BMV may also set an administrative hearing for drivers who have three moving violations within a 12-month period.
  • Increased Insurance Premiums: Following a hit and run, the offender’s auto insurance premiums are likely to increase significantly. Insurance companies view drivers who have been involved in a hit and run as high-risk, which results in higher insurance costs. In some cases, the insurance company might even choose to cancel the policy.
  • Administrative Fees and Fines: There could be various administrative fees and fines imposed, separate from any criminal fines. These fees might cover the costs of reinstating a driver’s license or other administrative processes.
  • Vehicle Impoundment: In certain situations, especially in cases involving serious accidents or repeat offenses, the vehicle involved in the hit and run might be impounded by the authorities.

Charged Under Indiana’s Hit and Run Laws?

Being convicted under the Indiana hit and run laws can wreak havoc on a person’s life. Not only would they face criminal penalties, but they would also accumulate a large number of points on their driver’s license, which could lead to an automatic suspension. Given this, it’s vital that anyone who has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident in Indiana seek the counsel of an experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney in Indiana. This will help ensure that everything is being done to minimize their potential criminal penalties and to protect their ability to stay on the road. 

If you’re in need of a skilled, experienced defense lawyer, the Indianapolis criminal defense law firm of Keffer Hirschauer LLP has you covered. Our founding partners, Bradley Keffer and Tom Hirschauer, are both former deputy prosecutors who have experience prosecuting and defending hit and run cases. On top of that, Mr. Keffer is a past chair of the Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum program responsible for educating lawyers about traffic violations; while Mr. Hirschauer has been a presenter at multiple legal conferences regarding traffic law matters.

To speak with an Indiana defense attorney today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Summary
Understanding the Indiana Hit and Run Laws
Article Name
Understanding the Indiana Hit and Run Laws
Description
This article addresses the Indiana hit and run laws, and the potential consequences for violating such laws.
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Keffer Hirschauer LLP

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