What is a Hit and Run?
In Georgia, a Hit and Run is where you’re involved in a car accident where someone is hurt (or dies) or there is damage done to the car, and you don’t stick around at the scene to give your information or help if someone’s hurt.
What do I need to do to avoid a Hit and Run?
You need to give your name, address, and the registration number of your vehicle to the other driver, and also show them your driver’s license.
If anyone is injured, you need to help them to the best of your ability – even if it’s just calling 911.
If they aren’t injured too bad, you need to help them get to the hospital or other medical assistance.
Can I get a Hit and Run citation even though I’m the one who got hit?
Yes! Even if you’re the one who got hit in an accident, you could still be the one who gets the Hit and Run ticket – if you leave the scene without giving your information or helping to render aid to anyone who was injured, you can still be charged with a hit and run, even if you’re the one who got hit.
What if the other driver told me I could leave?
If the other driver told you that you could leave without giving your information or rendering aid, then you’ll need to be able to prove it – whether it’s with a video or audio recording from the accident, or an eyewitness that can testify to them telling you you could leave.
But even if they told you that, the law says you have to give the information and render aid, so you could still be on the hook for a Hit and Run. The best practice is to always give your information, document the entire event, and even call the police, so they can make the report that yes, you stayed and were there.
Is a Hit and Run in Georgia a Felony or a Misdemeanor?
If anyone dies or is seriously injured as a result of the accident, and you’re convicted of the Hit and Run, then it’s a Felony in Georgia.
If someone is injured but not seriously injured, or if the only damage is to the car, then it’s a Misdemeanor in Georgia.
Interesting fact – all traffic tickets in Georgia are at least Misdemeanor offenses – if not felonies.
What is Georgia’s punishment for a Hit and Run Felony?
A hit and run felony conviction in Georgia means that you’re a convicted felon (you can no longer vote, own firearms, etc.) and it also means you’ll be put in prison for at least one year and up to five years.
You’ll also be on probation for any time you’re not in custody, and you’ll have to pay fines and restitution – which is money to repay for the damages done to the family of the person who died or was seriously injured as a result of the car accident.
You could also face a separate civil lawsuit, where the family of the person who died or the person who was seriously injured could sue you for monetary damages, outside of the criminal case, that could result in even more money paid out to that person or their family on their behalf.
What is Georgia’s punishment for a Hit and Run Misdemeanor?
First Conviction for Hit and Run Misdemeanor
If it’s your first conviction of a Hit and Run Misdemeanor, Georgia law requires you to pay a fine of at least $300 but no more than $1,000 (which you can’t get waived or forgiven), or put in jail for up to 12 months – or both items. So the judge gets to decide – fine, or jail time, or both fine and jail time.
Second Conviction for Hit and Run Misdemeanor
If you’ve already had a conviction for Hit and Run Misdemeanor and then you get a second one within five years (counted from the date of arrest for each one), Georgia law requires you to pay a fine of at least $600 but no more than $1,000 that can’t be waived or forgiven, or put in jail for up to 12 months – or both the fine and the jail time. It’s up to the judge.
Third or More Conviction for Hit and Run Misdemeanor
If you get a third or more conviction for Hit and Run Misdemeanor within a five year period (counted from the date of each arrest), the Georgia law requires you to pay a fine of $1,000 that can’t be waived or forgiven, or go to jail for up to 12 months – or have both the fine and the jail time, depending on what the judge wants.
Probation for Misdemeanors
You could also be on probation for up to 12 months and you’ll have to report to your probation officer and pay a fee to probation for you to be supervised by them. You may even have to take random drug and alcohol screens while you’re on probation.
Fine Can be Paid in Installments
If you are ordered to pay one of the fines above, but you financially can’t pay it all at once, the judge can let you pay it in installment payments over time. But if you don’t follow the payment plan so you can pay it off by the end of your probation period (up to 12 months), then you could get thrown in jail as punishment.
How does a Hit and Run affect my Georgia Driver’s License?
Both felony and misdemeanor convictions for Hit and Run mean your driver’s license will be suspended. If it’s your first conviction (within the last five years), your suspension will last for 120 days. You can get a limited permit for $25.00 that will last you one year.
If this is your third or more conviction within the last five years, you’ll then become a Habitual Violator. Actually, even if you only have one Hit and Run conviction, but you have two other Habitual Violator offense convictions, then you’ll be a Habitual Violator.
This means your license is suspended for five years and you have to jump through a lot of hoops to get it back. You can get a probationary license after two years of being suspended, but it is a lot of items to do, and you could even be required to have an Ignition Interlock Device on your car, which is where you have to breathe into a breathalyzer before you can start your car.
Additionally, if you hold a CDL or commercial driver’s license, and you get any conviction for Hit and Run, you’ll lose your CDL class as well – even if the Hit and Run happened in a regular, non-commercial vehicle.
Can I plead No Contest or Nolo Contendere to the Hit and Run Charges to save my license or avoid other consequences?
No. Georgia law does not let you plead “no contest” or “nolo contendere” to a Hit and Run, to avoid your driver’s license being suspended, whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony.
How do I get my license back after a Hit and Run suspension?
After the 120 days are up, you have to give DDS (Department of Driver Services) proof that you completed a DDS-approved defensive driving clinic and you have to pay a reinstatement fee of $210.00. Otherwise, your driver’s license will remain suspended, even after the 120 day period.
If it is a Habitual Violator suspension, you must complete all requirements and show proof to DDS after the five year period is up.
What are some defenses against a Hit and Run?
Here are some potential defenses against a Hit and Run traffic citation.
I did go back to the accident scene and give my information or offer to help
Usually, this happens when the police aren’t called right away. If you did stop, give your information and/or offer help to any injured persons, but you didn’t wait to see if the police came, then you could still be charged with a Hit and Run in Georgia, for various reasons. If you’re not around to tell your story, you don’t have any way to know if the other side is telling the truth or all the details. Any evidence you have that you actually did stop at the scene and give your information or offer to help any injured people will be key in your defense to these Hit and Run charges.
I wasn’t even driving or in my car – it was someone else who got in an accident when I let them use my car
This often happens when the other driver gets the license plate only of the car – and when it happens to be your car, but you weren’t driving, the police are going to give you the ticket – unless you can quickly prove otherwise. If you do get saddled with a Hit and Run because it was your car, but you weren’t driving and if you weren’t in the car at the time, you need to have evidence that someone else was driving your car. This can be tricky since you are probably friends with the person you lent your car to – but it’s really important to “turn them in” to protect yourself.
I didn’t even know I was in an accident
As crazy as this may seem, we’ve had clients who didn’t even know they hit another car – until they got served with a Hit and Run traffic ticket. They didn’t see or hear it, as it was such a minor accident, and they kept going. This defense doesn’t always work, but it can help your case, to prove that you didn’t know you left the scene since you didn’t even know there was a scene to return to.
Will I go to jail when I get a Hit and Run traffic ticket?
Although it is ultimately up to the police or sheriff’s department, the answer is more than likely “yes” – since we usually do see that, when people get served with a Georgia Hit and Run traffic ticket, they also get a complimentary, although unwanted, ride to the local jail, complete with booking and intake.
Sometimes, the police are investigating our clients and want the client “come in” for an “interview”. When that happens, you can pretty much bet that part of your interview will be going to jail for your Hit and Run charges.
Thankfully, if at all possible, we work with the police department to have our clients go to the interview with representation – one of our lawyers – and then work out a time with our client’s schedule to turn themselves in, so they are not abruptly interrupted in their work and home life.
Though of course, going to jail is not exactly convenient or comfortable. We advise our clients how to set up getting bonded out rather quickly, before they are even booked, so they spend maybe a few hours at most in custody, if that.
The silver lining to this rain cloud is that any time you spend in jail will count towards any additional jail or probation time you may end up getting ordered to do at the end of your case, if it results in a conviction.
Can a Lawyer Help with my Hit and Run Ticket?
A lawyer can absolutely help – especially since this is considered a serious offense in Georgia, if someone was injured or killed as a result of the accident.
And also since, even if it was only minor property damage, a conviction will have you without a driver’s license for 120 days.
What will the lawyer do for me?
A lawyer should help you know exactly what is going on in the process – from the first court date all the way to the final resolution of your case. They’ll be your guide and answer any questions you may have.
Your lawyer will make sure that you don’t miss any court dates – which could result in a failure to appear (FTA), meaning you could lose your bond if you went to jail, or even get put back in jail on a bench warrant.
They can also advise you on what things to do – like take a defensive driving course, do some community service hours, start saving up for your fines and fees – if the evidence and the law aren’t on your side and you’re going to have to face the possibility of a guilty plea or going to trial, to help you put your best foot forward in that case.
And, if the evidence and law are on your side, they’ll be able to tell you so, and fight for you in trial.
I don’t want to deal with the stress – can I just pay my ticket and move on with my life?
Even if you are okay pleading guilty and want to pay the ticket – which is up to the court if you can even do that, some places make you appear and talk to the judge before you can resolve your case – we strongly recommend talking with a lawyer.
You need to know your possible rights, even if you really just want to move on past it, and you also need to know what consequences you’re setting yourself up for after a conviction of Hit and Run on your record – such as a hefty fine, higher insurance rates, not being able to drive for 120 days, how to get a limited driving permit, and how to get your full license privileges reinstated after the 120 days, just to mention a few things.
It doesn’t hurt to call a lawyer – and actually, that’s a great way to hand off the stress of your case to someone else, and let you focus on moving forward with your life.