If you have been drinking and are involved in an accident, your initial thought may be to leave the scene to avoid getting arrest for operating a vehicle while under the influence (OVI). However, it is a crime to flee the scene and the potential penalties can be severe.
Stopping After Accident
Under Ohio law, a person involved in a car accident is required to stop and exchange information with the other people involved. The information required to be exchanged includes:
- Name and address of driver or operator;
- Name and address of the owner of the vehicle; and
- Vehicle registration number.
If the accident involves a vehicle that is unoccupied or unattended, the above information must be securely placed on or in the vehicle.
It is a first degree misdemeanor for failing to stop and exchange information. The penalties include a possible six-month jail sentence and a fine up to $1,000. If the accident caused serious physical injury to another person, it is considered a fifth degree felony, punishable by a jail term of between 6 and 12 months and a fine of up to $2500. An accident that results in the death of another person is a third degree felony, punishable by a prison term of between one and five years.
An offender also must provide the court with proof of financial responsibility. A failure to provide this proof may result in the court ordering an offender to pay restitution in an amount up to $5,000. Additionally, the court will impose a class five license suspension on the offender. A class five suspension means losing your license from anywhere between six months and three years. An FRA suspension requires a person to maintain an SR-22 insurance policy and pay a reinstatement fee. The Judge doesn’t impose a suspension for not having insurance, the BMV does. (The court can suspend a person for leaving the scene though.)
If you are involved in an accident, you should stop as close to the accident as possible without obstructing traffic. After making sure it is safe to exit your vehicle, you should check to ensure the other people involved in the accident are unharmed. If no medical assistance is required, you can then begin to exchange the required information.
Accident Causing Damage to Realty
A similar requirement is placed upon people who are involved in accidents that cause damage to real property or to personal property attached to real property. The person must take reasonable steps to locate the owner of the property. If the owner cannot be located, the person must send to the police the information that is required to be given to the owner, as well as the location of the accident and a description of the damage. This must be completed within 24 hours of the accident. Failing to fulfill these requirements is a first degree misdemeanor.
Remain at the Scene
It may seem like a good idea to leave the scene of an accident if you have been drinking. However, this is not advisable. The best course of action is to remain at the scene and fulfill the obligations placed on people involved in accidents. In the event the police become involved and you are arrested for suspicion of OVI, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.