Leaving the scene of an accident

Leaving the scene of an accident

If you are in a vehicle accident, the law says that you must stop immediately and:

  • help people who might be injured
  • exchange names and addresses with the other driver or property owner – for example, if you hit someone’s fence
  • go to the local police station to tell them about the accident if no one is around.

You have to do these things even if the accident is not your fault.

It is an offence to leave the scene of a vehicle accident

If you leave the scene of an accident, the police can charge you with the following offences:

  • fail to stop after an accident
  • fail to render assistance
  • failure to exchange names and addresses
  • fail to report an accident to a police station if no other person is present at the accident.

If someone was seriously hurt or died

If you caused the accident and left the scene, but someone was seriously hurt or died because of the accident, the police could charge you with an indictable offence. This is very serious. You could go to jail for up to ten years or get a big fine. Get legal advice.

The information below does not apply to these indictable offences.

Going to court

You will have to go to court to face the charges. Whether you are guilty depends on the exact facts and circumstances of your case.

What does the prosecution have to prove?

When the charges against you are heard in court, the prosecution must prove all of the following:

  • you were driving
  • there was an accident
  • if there was damage or an injury, you failed to stop and exchange names and addresses.

Your options at court

You have three options:

The diversion program means your case is treated differently. It is normally for less serious cases. You must agree to certain conditions. You do not get a criminal record.

To get diversion you must admit responsibility for the offence. This includes everything the informant says in the statement of alleged facts. This means you tell the magistrate that you know you broke the law but you would like diversion. If you are not given a diversion recommendation, you can ask to adjourn the case.

The police prosecutor and magistrate are more likely to grant diversion if there was little or no property damage.

For more information see Going to court for traffic offences.

Possible defences

It is a defence if you did not know that there was an accident.

Penalties if you are found guilty

Fines

The magistrate may give you a fine for these offences. You can get:

Losing your licence

For any one of these offences, magistrates usually suspend your licence for one to six months. You must not drive at all during this time. There are no exceptions. For example, you cannot drive to work or to pick up your children. There are no special licences that allow you to drive some of the time. There are very serious penalties for driving while suspended.

Jail

The magistrate may order imprisonment:

  • 14 days for a first offence
  • 1 month for subsequent offences.

What else might happen if I am found guilty?

What happens in court goes into your criminal record. You may also have to pay compensation for any damage caused to someone’s property.

See Possible outcomes for traffic offences for more information about penalties and other outcomes.