In late December of 2015 at around 2:30 a.m., a Lamborghini collided with another car on the Gardiner Expressway east of Spadina Ave in Toronto. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries in the crash, although the Lamborghini was significantly damaged. The driver of the Lamborghini was picked up by a BMW before police arrived at the scene, and law enforcement are attempting to track down the fleeing driver.

When a driver leaves the scene of an accident, the police may speculate that the driver had something to hide, such as operating a vehicle while impaired or driving ‘Over 80’ (with a blood alcohol level exceeding .08). However, once the driver has been located, the charges that are laid depend on the circumstances and seriousness of the accident and sometimes, driver characteristics (if perceived to be contributing to the accident). Leaving the scene of an accident, or as is commonly referred to as a ‘hit and run’, is never a good idea; it is treated as a serious offense in Canada, particularly if someone was known to be injured or killed in the collision.

If you are involved in an accident, under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, you are legally obligated to take the following steps:

  • Remain at the scene of the accident or return immediately to the scene.
  • If requested, give your name, phone number, address, driver’s licence, and insurance information for the registered vehicle owner to other drivers and passengers involved in the accident, as well as to any witnesses and police officers.
  • Provide all possible assistance to others involved in the accident.
  • Report the accident if there was property damage (to vehicles, roads or other property) exceeding $1000 or if anyone was injured.

You need to be very careful when assuming that damage to a vehicle, or property is less than $1000 because it takes very little damage to exceed that amount. Failure to report an accident carries a potential $1000 fine and 3 demerit points on your licence.

At the discretion of the arresting officers and depending on the circumstances of the accident, a driver who leaves the scene of an accident may be charged with a criminal offence or a traffic violation, or in many cases, multiple charges may be laid. If you are charged with Failing to Remain at the Scene of an Accident under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, you face the following penalties, if convicted:

  • a $400 – $2000 fine
  • imprisonment up to 6 months
  • 7 demerit points on your driver’s licence
  • possible driver’s licence suspension up to 2 years
  • significant increase in your vehicle insurance rate

If the officers choose to charge you with the Criminal Code offence of Failing to Stop at the Scene of an Accident and you are convicted, you will experience the negative consequences of having a criminal record in addition to the following penalties:

  • up to a $5000 fine
  • imprisonment up to 5 years, if no one was hurt or you were unaware of injury
  • imprisonment up to 10 years, if you knew someone suffered injuries (bodily harm)
  • up to life imprisonment, if you knew someone was killed
  • possible driver’s licence suspension up to 2 years
  • significant increase in your vehicle insurance rate

A criminal conviction can make it more difficult to find future employment and also, to travel to the United States and other countries. A person with a criminal record faces stiffer penalties if they are arrested and convicted in the future, even for lesser offences.

When someone is charged with Failing to Stop, they are often charged with additional offences such as Careless Driving (an Ontario traffic violation) or Dangerous Driving (a Criminal Code offense). If found guilty of these offenses, you can incur additional fines and penalties, including longer jail time.

In another December 2015 accident, a vehicle hit a hydro pole and catapulted onto an unoccupied parked car, near King and Concession in Cambridge. The occupants of the vehicle left the scene after their vehicle caught fire, but were tracked down by Cambridge police officers with the help of witnesses and police dogs. The driver was subsequently charged with Failing to Remain at the Scene, Dangerous Driving, and Impaired Driving.

When we hear of car accidents, whether or not they result in criminal charges being laid, there is much that isn’t reported and we rarely hear the driver’s side of the story. Yet, the truth of the matter is that everyone makes mistakes, particularly as drivers, and we all deserve a fair hearing. There are many defences to failing to remain at the scene of accident including, for example, the fact that the Crown often has difficulty providing the identity of the person who left the scene.

If you are charged with Failing to Remain at the Scene or another driving offense, don’t discuss any details of the accident with police or even friends; contact an experienced criminal lawyer at Kruse Law to speak for you. When the police officer warns you that “anything you say can be used against you”, take this advice very seriously and say nothing.

Although it is a police officer who lays the charges of Failing to Remain or Failing to Stop at the Scene of an Accident, the police do not decide whether you are guilty or innocent; that decision is made by a judge. There are many circumstances that can affect this charge, and the skilled criminal lawyers at Kruse Law will explore all of the evidence and factors regarding your arrest with the goal of having the charges dropped or reduced. Our lawyers focus on criminal driving charges and can ensure that your legal rights are well represented.

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