CRS 42-4-1606 is the Colorado law that requires drivers involved in accidents that caused property damage or bodily injury to file an accident report right away. Failure to file an accident report is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense, carrying 10 to 90 days in jail, and/or $150 to $300 in fines.
In this article, our Denver criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. When do drivers have to report car accidents in Colorado?
- 2. What are the penalties under CRS 42-4-1606?
- 3. What are typical defenses?
- 4. How do I file an accident report?
- 5. Do I need a lawyer to file an accident report?
- 6. Related crimes
Drivers involved in a crash have the duty to file an accident report if the collision caused:
- Injuries (non-serious or serious bodily injury),
- The death of any person, and/or
- Property damage
Drivers must file this report after completing their other duties to avoid hit and run (CRS 42-4-1601) charges. These duties include:
- Giving their name, address, and registration number of the vehicle to the other drivers involved (if they are well enough to receive this information);
- Showing their driver's license to the other drivers, if they request it;
- In the case of a damaged unattended vehicle, trying to find the owner. And if unsuccessful, leaving a note with their name and registration number; and
- Giving reasonable aid to injured person(s) in need of medical attention.
A law enforcement officer can always ask drivers to file supplemental reports if their initial one was lacking necessary information. Police typically will not investigate any Colorado car accident reports if they have a reasonable basis to believe there were no injuries and less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) in property damage.
The only time drivers do not have to file a vehicle accident report is if police are at the scene of the accident making the report themselves.1
Failing to file an accident report when required is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense in the state of Colorado. The sentence is:
- 10 - 90 days in jail time, and/or
- $150 - $300 in fines
Note that traffic misdemeanor convictions can never be sealed from the defendant's record. They remain on the record forever.2
The best way to fight CRS 42-4-1606 charges depends on the specific case. Three potential defense arguments include:
- Police were there. If a police officer was at the accident scene and obtained all the essential information, then the defendant had no obligation to file a report.
- The defendant was incapacitated. The defense attorney can show the prosecutor medical records proving the defendant was too ill and did not have the ability to file such report.
- No knowledge of the damage. Reports are only required if there are injuries or property damage. Perhaps the other drivers involved even said at the scene that no harm was done and then realized only later there was damage. This defense is most effective if the defendant filed a report as soon as the defendant realized it was necessary.
Most of these cases resolve without a trial. The defense attorney may be able to convince the D.A. to lower the charge to a lesser misdemeanor, a traffic infraction, or even a dismissal.
Go online to the Colorado DMV website. It will ask for relevant information, including the date, time, and location of such accident. It will also ask if the property damage amounts to less than $1,000 and if the crash took place on private property or public property. Finally, it will ask for identifying information, such as name, address, and driver's license number.
No, but it is recommended that people consult with a lawyer first. Otherwise, people risk submitting incriminating information without realizing it. Experienced attorneys know how to fill out traffic accident reports without admitting fault.
- Felony hit-and-run (CRS 42-4-1603): Leaving the scene of an accident that caused a serious bodily injury is a class 4 felony, carrying 2 to 6 years in prison, and/or $2,000 to $500,000 in fines.
- Careless driving (CRS 42-4-1402): People who drive a motor vehicle without regard for the road and surroundings face charges for a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense. The penalties are 10 to 90 days in jail, and/or $150 to $300 in fines.
- Reckless driving (CRS 42-4-1401): Such person who drives with reckless disregard of others' safety faces class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense charges. It also carries 10 to 90 days in jail, and/or $150 to $300 in fines.
- False reporting of a crime (CRS 18-8-110): Making a false crime report is usually a class 3 misdemeanor, carrying up to 6 months of jail and/or $50 to $750 in fines.
In California? See our article about hit-and-run (VC 20002).
In Nevada? See our article about hit-and-run (NRS 484E.010).
- Colorado Revised Statutes 42-4-1606 CRS (Duty to report accidents); People v. Reyes, 42 Colo. App. 73, 589 P.2d 1385 (1979). C.R.S. 42-4-1606 also requires garage or repair shop managers to notify a police authority at the nearest office or police station within twenty-four (24) hours of receiving a vehicle displaying a bullet hole. They also need to provide the vehicle identification number, registration number, and, if known, the name and address of the owner and operator of such vehicle together with any other discernible information.
- CRS 42-4-1606; CRS 24-72.