In this article, our Denver criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is “hit and run with injury” in Colorado?
- 2. What are drivers’ obligations under CRS 42-4-1603?
- 3. What are the penalties for leaving an accident with injuries?
- 4. How can a defense attorney help?
- 5. Related offenses
Hit and run with injury is when a driver leaves the scene of the accident that caused another person to get injured or die. It is a more serious crime than leaving the scene of an accident that caused only property damage.
Colorado law distinguishes between injury and serious bodily injury:
An injury means “physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical or mental condition.” Examples include a first-degree burn or a bruise.
Meanwhile, a serious bodily injury means an injury that involves either:
- A substantial risk of death,
- A substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement,
- A substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of organ function,
- Most conditions requiring surgical treatment,
- Breaks or fractures, or
- Second or third-degree burns
As discussed below, the extent of the victims’ injuries determines the driver’s obligations at the accident scene. The extent of the injuries also determines what punishment the defendant faces if charged in a hit and run case.1
Colorado drivers must take the following actions:
- If practical, render reasonable assistance to the injury victim. This may include carrying the victim to medical help. Or arranging for such person to be carried to medical help. Typically, this involves the driver using a cell phone to call 911.
- Give the driver’s name, the driver’s address, and registration number of the vehicle to the victim, but only if the victim is well enough to receive this information.
- Upon request, show their driver’s license to the injured person.
- File an accident report (if there is no police officer on scene already).2
The Colorado punishment for leaving the scene of an injury-causing accident depends on the extent of the injury:
Injury to the victim
Sentence for violating Colorado hit and run laws
|Non-serious injury||Class 1 traffic misdemeanor:
|Serious bodily injury||Class 4 felony
|Death||Class 3 felony:
Note that failing in the duty to report accidents to the police (CRS 42-4-1606) is a class 2 traffic misdemeanor. This carries:
- 10 – 90 days in jail, and/or
- $150 – $300 in fines3
Defendants may face personal injury claims from the victim of a hit and run (CRS 42-4-1601) as well. The hit and run driver could be ordered to pay for medical bills and property damage.
Defense lawyers can negotiate with prosecutors in an attempt to get hit-and-run criminal charges reduced or dismissed. Potential strategies include arguing that:
- The defendant was also seriously injured in the motor vehicle accident. So the defendant was unable to report the traffic accident or render aid.
- The defendant honestly did not realize what happened. Perhaps the defendant had a seizure or other medical episode at the time.
- The reason the defendant left the scene of such accident was to get help or look for law enforcement. This argument is strongest if the defendant had no working phone and returned to the scene at a later time.
- The defendant genuinely had no idea anyone had been injured.
- The victim told the defendant at the scene that there was no injury.
None of these arguments is a full defense to a CRS 42-4-1601 charge. But they could go a long way in persuading the prosecutor to lessen the charge to something more minor or drop it altogether.
- Speeding (CRS 42-4-1101): Driving faster than the speed limit is typically a traffic infraction. Punishments usually include fines and DMV points.
- Careless driving (CRS 42-4-1402): Driving carelessly is operating a motor vehicle without regard for the road and surroundings. It is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense. The penalties include 10 to 90 days in jail, and/or $150 to $300 in fines.
- Reckless driving (CRS 42-4-1401): Driving such vehicle in reckless disregard of others’ safety is also a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense. And it also carries 10 to 90 days in jail, and/or $150 to $300 in fines.
In California? See our article about hit-and-run with injury (VC 20001).
In Nevada? See our article about hit & run (NRS 484E.010).
- Colorado Revised Statutes 42-4-1601 CRS.
- CRS 42-4-1603; People v. Hernandez, 250 P.3d 568 (Colo. 2010). Under the provision of this section, police from the nearest office in the state of Colorado will also get the driver’s insurance information and contact information.
- CRS 42-4-1601; CRS 42-4-1606.