If the police are calling you or knocking on your door at your home, you are never obligated to speak with them. And it would be a mistake for you to do so, in almost ever case.
You are better off not answering the phone or returning the call, or not answering the door. If you are trapped and a police officer sees you, and you feel you have to say something, you should just say “I need to speak with my lawyer” and leave.
What happens when the police are investigating a hit and run?
It is usually not that hard for them to identify the vehicle involved. They very often get a plate or partial plate from witnesses, and the make, model, and color of the car. Sometimes there are surveillance videos nearby, or red light cameras, or toll cameras and license plate scanning readers.
Once they find the car, maybe in your driveway, they can identify if there is any damage to your vehicle that is consistent with might have happened in the accident. That’s the easy part.
Proving who was driving the car at the time is always the challenge. Just because you own the car, and it’s parked outside your house, doesn’t mean you were the person behind the wheel at the time of the incident.
That’s what they are looking to establish. And the easiest way for them to prove that is to get you to admit it.
But if you admit, it, you will usually be arrested. You will possibly just receive a criminal citation (which you will get if they still can’t prove that you were driving and left the scene of the accident).
But admitting to a crime and being arrested limits your legal defense options substantially, and will make it go worse for you.
“Yeah, but I actually did it.” It doesn’t matter. You are still not under any obligation to implicate yourself.
As a decent person who made a mistake, you are not obligated to punish yourself with the worst possible criminal penalties, which is what you are risking if you confess to the police.
I understand you want to make it right, and that’s what we can do. We want the victim to be compensated, and have his or her car fixed, or whatever is necessary.
We can do that with your attorney dealing with the insurance company, and not accepting unnecessary and possible extreme and life changing criminal penalties for you.
The police are knocking on my door. What should I do?
Do not answer the door or speak to them. If they see you or you are forced to say something, just tell them you won’t speak to them without a lawyer and say nothing else.
The Police are calling me on the phone and left me a voice mail.
Do not call them back. Speak to an attorney about how to proceed.
The police sent me a letter asking me to come in for questioning.
You should not go to this meeting without legal representation and a plan. You are not obligated to meet them or speak with them.
Won’t it look suspicious if I don’t respond to a police request to talk to them?
Maybe. But there is nothing they can do about it. If their suspicion means they issue a criminal citation for leaving the scene of an accident, then that was going to happen anyway, no matter what. There is nothing you could have said to prevent it.
What can an attorney do when speaking to the police?
A lawyer can admit to “hypothetical” situations without implicating you, and nothing can be used against you in court. Basically, we can figure out what the police want to happen.
What about the insurance company? Shouldn’t I report the accident so they can pay for repairs?
No, not yourself. You can’t report the accident without implicating yourself. And anything you say to your insurance company is accessible by the police. Many insurance companies will record all claims call submissions, and may even immediately report it to the police.
But your attorney can talk to the insurance company, get them to pay the claim to get your car fixed, and get the victim’s car fixed.
In fact, in dealing with the insurance company, and making sure the victim is compensated, your attorney can help your criminal case. We can speak to the officer or detective investigating the case, and inform him that the victim is going to be totally covered by the insurance. Then the victim is happy, and the police may not be overly concerned about the charges, as long as the victim is made whole.
What if there was an injury in the hit and run?
The stakes and possible criminal charges are more serious. If someone in another car was hurt and you left the scene of an accident involving injury, you are facing a felony charge, even for a minor injury.
For a minor injury, you are facing a state jail felony, punishable by up to 2 years in jail, and fines up to $10,000 if you are found guilty.
For a case involving serious injury or death, it is a 3rd degree felony, which is punishable by 2-10 years in prison if you are found guilty.
Please call us for help on any leaving the scene of an accident case in Texas.
In most cases, the situation is fixable, especially if you don’t admit to anything. Most of our clients in the Dallas area in particular end up with a deferred adjunction Class C misdemeanor reduction. This is also an outcome that can be expunged, so it doesn’t have to hurt your future and your criminal record. Options may be different in other court jurisdictions around the state, but the laws are the same, and the advice is the same.
If you’ve read this far, great. I hope this was helpful.
The most important thing to remember, once again, is don’t admit anything, and don’t talk to the police. Call us, and we can help.