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Don't just leave the scene
By Jeff Terrill
Fort Wayne Reader
Thousands of traffic accidents occur every day. Fortunately, many donít involve injuries. Some accidents involve damage to things other than vehicles. Street signs, mailboxes and fences are just a few examples of property that vehicles damage.
Most drivers know that if they are involved in an accident with another vehicle that they need to stay at the scene and provide personal contact and insurance information. When a person strikes an unattended vehicle and the owner canít be located, a driver needs to leave personal contact information (name and address) in a conspicuous location with the unattended vehicle.
Under Indiana law, when a driver damages property (other than another vehicle), the driver must do the following: (1) immediately stop or stay at the accident location in a way that doesnít obstruct traffic (if possible); (2) take reasonable steps to notify the owner or person in charge of the property; (3) provide the driverís name, address and vehicle registration number; and (4) upon request, show a driverís license.
If a driver attempts to find the owner or person in charge of the property but canít do so, then the driver must do the following: (1) notify either the sheriffís department or state police department; and (2) provide law enforcement with the information described above.
A person who fails to comply with the law and leaves the scene of an accident (one without injuries), can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable up to 180 days in jail.
Meet Lou. Lou isnít a real person but letís say heís a manager of a small company. In January, Lou received a phone call just after 1:00 a.m. advising him of a door alarm breach at the business. Lou put on some clothes and jumped in his car. About a mile from his home, Lou lost control of his vehicle on a slick stretch of road, slid through an intersection and ended up with most of his car in someoneís yard.
He got out of the car and saw a small bush along with a plastic Christmas decoration underneath his car. Lou got back into his car, put it in reverse and backed up on the road. Lou put his car in park and returned to the yard. The bush had lost some branches, but the plastic snowman and his car appeared unharmed.
Lou considered knocking on the homeownerís door, but the lights were all off and it was about 1:20 a.m. He didnít want to startle anybody. Lou got back into his car and headed for the shop. Once there, he found no signs of entry. He turned the alarm off and called the security company before returning home to his bed.
Later that same day, Lou heard a knock at his door. A police officer asked Lou if the car in the driveway was his. Lou said it was. The officer asked if Lou was driving the vehicle earlier that morning. Lou confirmed he had. The officer asked Lou if his vehicle left the roadway and went into a yard. Lou confirmed it did.
The officer arrested Lou for leaving the scene of an accident involving damage to property other than a vehicle.
On the way to the jail, Lou explained to the officer that he had planned to stop by the property ownerís home on his way to work later that day.
The officer told Lou that was no longer necessary.
Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you.