In Virginia, most traffic citations are not criminal matters. However, when a motorist violates some of the more serious traffic laws, it may result in more than just a traffic ticket. Some traffic violations can end up in a criminal conviction, resulting in fines, costs, probation and even jail time.
One example of this type of offense is a Virginia DUI. Technically a traffic offense, a DUI will result in criminal charges being filed against a driver. A hit and run accident is another example. In February, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia hit and run case discussing the defendant’s conviction for failing to stop at the scene of an accident. The case presents a thorough discussion of what the prosecution must establish before a defendant can be found guilty of this offense.
As is the case in any criminal trial, the prosecution must establish each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Under Virginia Code § 46.2-894, a person who is involved in an accident must stop as close to the scene as possible. In addition, a motorist must provide their “name, address, driver’s license number, and vehicle registration number forthwith to the State Police or local law enforcement agency, to the person struck” as well as anyone who was injured in the accident. Finally, the motorist must render reasonable assistance to anyone injured in the accident, including taking that person to the hospital or calling 911.
The issue in the case was whether the statute’s reporting requirement is conjunctive or disjunctive. Essentially, the question is whether a motorist must report the accident to both the law enforcement and the other people involved in the accident or if the motorist need only report the accident to one of these parties.
The trial court found the defendant guilty without explaining the exact basis for the decision. On appeal, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction, finding that the defendant complied with neither reporting requirement. However, the court of appeals went on to explain that the motorist was only required to comply with one, interpreting the statute to be disjunctive.
On appeal to the state’s high court, the verdict was upheld. However, the court struck the part of the court of appeal’s opinion stating that a motorist need only comply with one of the two reporting requirements. The court explained that it was unnecessary for the court of appeals to reach the additional conclusion as to whether the statute was disjunctive or conjunctive.
Have You Been Arrested for a Serious Virginia Traffic Offense?
If you have recently been arrested and charged with a serious Virginia traffic offense, such as a hit and run or drunk-driving, contact the dedicated Virginia criminal defense attorneys at Robinson Law PLLC. At Robinson Law, we skillfully represent clients in all types of cases. Our team of advocates understands the stress and anxiety that a pending criminal matter can have on our clients’ lives, and diligently work to minimize this impact. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 703-542-4008 today.