Nevada lawmakers target hit-and-run drivers

Nevada lawmakers target hit-and-run drivers

Nevada motorists who flee the scene of an accident will soon face stricter penalties, according to NBC News Las Vegas. With the passage of Senate Bill 245, drivers involved in hit-and-run accidents causing serious injuries or death will receive the same penalties as those who do so and are convicted of felony DUI.

Nevada’s “leaving the scene” statute and associated penalties are intended to discourage drivers from leaving the scene following an accident. However, an injury lawyer Reno knows that drunk drivers sometimes flee the scene willfully because the penalties they faced for doing so have been less harsh than those given for felony DUI.

Nevada’s hit-and-run laws

According to a 2010 Nevada Department of Transportation traffic study, hit-and-runs were a factor in 592 combined incidents on state roadways that year.  The Nevada State Legislature is the governing body responsible for setting the state’s accident and accident reporting laws. Current “leaving the scene” laws in Nevada dictate that those involved in accidents causing the personal injury or death of another are required to stop immediately at the scene. Those who fail to do so will be found guilty of a category B felony, punishable by between two and 15 years in prison and a fine of $2,000 – $5,000.

Additionally, those involved in accidents causing injury, death or property damage are required by law to turn over their names, addresses and registration numbers to others involved in the accident. They are also required to turn this information over to any law enforcement officials who arrive on the scene. In the event that law enforcement officials cannot be on the scene, those involved in the accident must report the incident promptly and without delay. Furthermore, in accidents where injury to another occurs, those involved must make every reasonable effort to seek medical attention for victims as soon as possible.

While those charged with hit-and-run accidents in Nevada face stiff penalties, those penalties have, to date, not been as severe as those faced by the state’s felony DUI offenders.

Nevada’s felony DUI laws

Nevada’s felony DUI offenders face understandably harsh punishment. An injury lawyer Reno knows that those involved in DUI-related accidents that result in bodily harm or the death of another face between 1 – 20 years in prison and can be assessed fines that fall between $2,000 and $5,000.

Backers of Nevada Senate Bill 245 argued that this “legal loophole” was having the opposite of its intended effect at a Senate Transportation Committee hearing held earlier this year. They noted that law enforcement officials cannot charge someone with a DUI “after the fact,” even when they firmly believe a suspect was intoxicated at the time of a crash. This is the case because evidence of DUI was not legally secured at the scene at the time of the infraction. Thus, some drivers reasoned that their chances were better in court when facing a “leaving the scene” charge as opposed to that of a felony DUI.

Changes to hit-and-run laws

When the new law takes effect on or near Oct. 1, 2015, those who leave accident scenes where injuries or death occur will face the same penalties as felony DUI offenders. Rather than face between I and 15 years with the possibility of probation, reports NBC News Las Vegas, offenders will face 2 – 20 years in prison with no possibility for probation. In an additional change to existing laws, those who cause injuries or deaths of multiple persons will soon be punished separately for each victim of their crime.

Law enforcement officials hopeful

One Nevada highway patrol trooper told NBC Las Vegas she was hopeful about the new changes and optimistic they would help deter drivers from leaving accident scenes. She noted that her department had already responded to more than 600 calls for suspected hit-and-run accidents in the last year in southern Nevada alone. She added that responding to hit-and-run calls takes a lot of time, resources and manpower, and that performing necessary follow-up investigations after hit-and-run accidents does so as well.

An injury lawyer Reno hopes that the passage of Senate Bill 245 will help curb instances like one recently reported by numerous Nevada news outlets, including Fox Five Las Vegas. In this particular case, a drunk driver hit and killed a bicyclist on East Charleston Blvd. near Mohave Road in Las Vegas, and then fled the scene before getting into a second serious accident only 10 minutes later. In the second incident, the motorist was found to be under the influence of alcohol. Additional evidence and research later linked the drunk driver to a third accident earlier that same night on Interstate 15 south of Charleston. Because the driver was cited onsite and not found to be impaired at that time, he was let go. The suspect now faces charges of DUI involving death and leaving the scene of an accident involving death.

A hit-and-run’s emotional and financial toll

Anyone who has been involved in a hit-and-run accident or lost a loved one due to this type of occurrence can attest that such incidents are particularly troublesome and draining. In addition to the physical toll these accidents can have on their victims and the many associated financial expenditures involved, many hit-and-run victims face long, uphill emotional battles as well.

Anyone who has suffered an injury as a result of someone fleeing the scene of a Nevada car accident should contact an attorney.