Most people feel a bit shaken up and unnerved after a car accident. The impact makes a frightening noise, and your body is at the mercy of gravity. If you’re at fault in the accident, you might wonder if it can turn into a criminal case.
In most circumstances, the answer is no. A civil rather than a criminal court will address accountability for causing a car crash. The person on the receiving end of the collision can file a personal injury case to seek compensation for their injuries, and costs for car repairs come from auto insurance.
Are there circumstances when you can go to jail for a car accident? Yes, but it depends on how the accident happened and how you responded to it. Here’s what you need to know about criminal liability in car accidents.
Will You Go to Jail?
If you’re involved in an accident, the simple act of your vehicle colliding with another isn’t a criminal matter. You and the other party can typically address it between yourselves. Car insurance is in place to help cover the costs of repairs and any injuries that result so that neither party faces financial ruin from the accident.
Discussions between you, the other party, and your insurance companies can often settle the matter, but it’s sometimes necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit. The experienced attorneys at De Castroverde Law Group can advise you on pursuing compensation under personal injury law.
Of course, you may still face legal consequences from the accident stemming from traffic violations. You may have been following someone too closely, causing a rear-end accident. Or you may have run a red light or stop sign and collided with another driver. You can even face citations if you’re driving a car without appropriately maintaining it. In these cases, a citation may require you to appear in court but will only result in civil fines rather than jail.
Can a Car Accident Turn Into a Criminal Case?
Other circumstances of the collision may have serious criminal ramifications. For example, if you were drunk during the accident, you’ll face field sobriety tests and possible arrest and jail. If authorities determine your blood-alcohol content measured 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter (g/dL) at the time, you’ll face charges of driving under the influence. If it’s your first offense, it’s a misdemeanor that carries a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Even if sober, you can be accountable in criminal court for your driving, depending on the circumstances. Nevada’s statutes include a charge of reckless driving, defined as showing a “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others.” Reckless driving in Nevada is also a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If your reckless driving causes death or serious injuries, the charge can elevate to a Class B felony, punishable by one to six years in prison and $2,000 to $5,000 in fines.
Another circumstance that can turn a car accident into a criminal matter concerns your behavior after the accident. Under the law, if you’re involved in a car crash, you must stay at the location to render aid and exchange information with the other driver.
If you leave the scene, you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony hit and run. Penalties can range from six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for a misdemeanor to two to 15 years in prison and a $5,000 fine for a felony hit-and-run. You may also lose your license and face a court order to pay restitution.
Depending on the circumstances, prosecutors can also bring a serious charge of vehicular manslaughter if they deem you responsible for a car accident that causes someone’s death. The accident doesn’t have to be intentional. Under Nevada law, you can face a charge of vehicular manslaughter in a fatal accident for an “act or omission” that constitutes simple negligence.
Simple negligence can result from innocent mistakes, such as running a red light while talking on your cell phone, forgetting to signal for a turn at the proper time, taking your eyes off the road at the wrong time, or slightly speeding. Vehicular manslaughter is a misdemeanor with penalties of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Can You Face Criminal Charges if You’re Uninsured?
Like every other state, Nevada requires drivers to maintain the proper amount of car insurance when driving. You’ll face criminal charges if you are uninsured and involved in a car accident. Driving without insurance in Nevada is a misdemeanor but doesn’t carry jail time.
A conviction can result in fines of up to $1,000 and may result in a suspension or revocation of your license. Penalties may be steeper for repeat offenses. The state will also charge you $750 to reinstate your license. Driving without insurance can also severely complicate circumstances after an accident. You’ll be liable for damages and could face a costly personal injury lawsuit.
The Representation You Need From De Castroverde Law Group
Let De Castroverde Law Group of Las Vegas and Reno stand by your side if you’re involved in a crash that leads to criminal charges. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys focus on your needs through aggressive, dependable, and affordable legal representation. Our team consists of lawyers with unique backgrounds, including former prosecutors, who can help explain the ins and outs of your case and help you build a sensible defense.
We believe in frequent and open communication with our clients. We’re the first firm in the Las Vegas area to provide bilingual attorneys and staff. Our team offers one-on-one attention to each client, and we focus on keeping you updated on the latest developments and what to expect. We’ll work with you to gather the facts and evidence and evaluate and explain the relevant laws. Call us or contact us online today for an immediate consultation.