Under Colorado law, leaving the scene of an accident triggers one of four criminal charges:
- Hit and run causing property damage – a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense punishable by 10 to 90 days in jail and/or $150 to $300.
- Hit and run causing non-serious bodily injury – a class 1 traffic misdemeanor punishable by 10 days to 1 year in jail and/or $300 to $1,000.
- Hit and run causing serious bodily injury – a class 4 felony punishable by 2 to 6 years in prison and/or $2,000 to $500,000.
- Hit and run causing death – a class 3 felony punishable by 4 to 12 years in prison and/or $3,000 to $750,000.
Defendants could also face civil liability if the victims file a lawsuit. This can result in the court ordering the defendant to pay the victim compensatory damages.
To help you better understand the law, our Denver Colorado criminal defense attorneys discuss the following:
- 1. What are my obligations after a Colorado car accident?
- 2. What are the penalties for hit and run in Colorado?
- 3. Are there other consequences of a hit-and-run conviction?
- 4. What are common defenses to the charge?
- 5. What is the statute of limitations for hit-and-run in Colorado?
While at the scene of an accident, involved drivers should exchange contact information and insurance information. There are additional requirements depending on the situation.
If you are involved in a car accident in Colorado, you are legally obligated to remain at the scene of the accident unless:
- You leave in order to lawfully report the accident to law enforcement (CRS 42-4-1606),
- There is no one in the other motor vehicle (see below), or
- You are yourself badly injured and in need of immediate medical attention.
You are also permitted to move a small distance if leaving the cars where they are would obstruct traffic or constitute a hazard.
If you are involved in an auto accident in which someone is injured, Colorado law requires you to, where practical, give an injured person reasonable assistance (“render aid”). Such reasonable assistance includes taking the victim to a doctor or hospital or making arrangements for someone to do so.1
If you collide with an unattended vehicle or other property and it is damaged, you must stop and either:
- locate and notify the operator or owner of such vehicle or other property, or
- securely attach a notice to the property in a conspicuous place.
The notice must inform the owner of:
- Your name,
- Your address, and
- The registration number of the vehicle you were driving.
You must also report the accident to the police and return to the accident scene if they ask you to.2
Penalties for fleeing the scene of an accident vary depending on:
- whether the other vehicle or property was occupied,
- whether the other vehicle or property was damaged, and
- whether anyone involved in the hit and run accident suffered:
- serious bodily injury, or
In general, Colorado penalties in a first-offense hit and run case include:
- County jail time or state prison,
- Fines and court costs,
- Victim restitution payments,
- Driver’s license suspension/revocation,
- Possibly probation, and
- Alcohol and substance abuse treatment
For purposes of Colorado’s hit and run statute, “injury” means
- physical pain,
- illness, or
- any impairment of physical or mental condition.3
“Serious bodily injury” means an injury that involves, either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time,
- a substantial risk of death,
- a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, or
- a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third-degree.4
Failure to report an accident or to provide notice to the owner of an unattended vehicle or other property owner is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense. Penalties for hit and run of an unattended vehicle or property can include:
- 10-90 days in jail, and/or
- A fine of $150-$300.5
Leaving the scene of a Colorado accident that results in property damage is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense. Criminal penalties for hit-and-run with property damage can include:
- 10-90 days in jail, and/or
- A fine of $150-$300.6
Hit and run resulting in non-serious injury is a Colorado class 1 traffic misdemeanor. Penalties can include:
- 10 days – one year in jail, and/or
- A fine of $300-$1,000.7
If you leave the scene of an accident in which someone was seriously injured, it is a Colorado class 4 felony. Colorado felony penalties for a hit-and-run with serious bodily injury can include:
- 2-6 years prison, and/or
- A fine of $2,000-$500,000.8
Learn more about felony hit-and-run (CRS 42-4-1603).
If you flee the scene of a Colorado accident in which someone dies you commit a Colorado class 3 felony. Penalties for Colorado hit and run resulting in death can include:
- 4-12 years in prison, and/or
- A fine of $3,000-$750,000.9
If you are convicted of leaving the scene of an accident, the DMV will
Courts will also award victim restitution for the
- medical bills,
- car repairs, or
- other losses that the victim suffers.
In addition, the hit and run driver may face a personal injury claim in civil court. And if the victim of a hit and run died, the driver could be sued for wrongful death.
It can be difficult to defend charges of leaving the scene of a Colorado accident. But as long as you report the accident to the police and return to the scene if requested, you may have a defense if:
- You were too seriously injured to remain on the scene and/or report the accident,
- You genuinely weren’t aware of your actions,
- You left the scene to look for a police officer or get help for someone who was injured,
- You didn’t realize anyone was injured or property was damaged,
- No one was injured and you left a note, or
- You were wrongly accused, such as if the victim wrote down the wrong license plate number.
Colorado district attorneys have a limited time – called a statute of limitations – to charge suspects with leaving the scene of a crash. The time limit depends on the specific charge:
Colorado hit-and-run offense
Statute of limitations for bringing criminal charges
|Class 3 felony (fatal) and vehicular homicide (CRS 18-3-1-6) together||10 years after the accident|
|Class 3 felony (fatal)||5 years after the accident|
|Class 4 felony (serious but non-fatal injury)||3 years after the accident|
|Traffic misdemeanors (all other cases)||1 year after the accident|
Once the applicable time period has passed, prosecutors may no longer press charges.10
Call us for help…
Getting into a crash is enough to make anyone stop thinking clearly. But leaving the scene is a serious charge that could get you a felony record – even if your intentions were good.
If you or someone you know was arrested on hit-and-run charges, our defense lawyers invite you to contact us for legal advice in our law office or over the phone. Also see our elated article on Do police investigate minor hit and run cases?
If you were injured in an accident, you are invited to contact our accident attorneys. We can negotiate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company in pursuit of the maximum settlement possible. We also recommend that everyone carry uninsured motorist coverage in the event an at-fault driver does not have insurance coverage at all.
Communities we serve include Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Thornton, Arvada, Westminster, Pueblo and Centennial.
Use the form on this page, or call us at our Denver home office:
Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211
- Colorado Revised Statutes, 42-4-1603, C.R.S. See also People v. Medrano-Bustamante, 2013 COA 139, 412 P.3d 581; see also People v. Hernandez, 250 P.3d 568 (Colo. 2010).
- 42-4-1606, C.R.S.
- C.R.S. 42-4-1601 (4)(a).
- 42-4-1601 (4)(b), C.R.S.
- 42-4-1701 (3)(a)(II)(A), C.R.S.
- Same. See 42-4-1602 C.R.S.
- 18-1.3-401, C.R.S.
- CRS 16-5-401.