This is Not a Golden Ticket, Charlie: The D.C. “Hit and Run Letter” and What to Do About It
If I had a time machine, I would use it for two things. First, I’d travel back to 1919 and stop the Red Sox from trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees. That’s a no-brainer. But after that, I’d go visit all of my D.C. Leaving after Colliding clients who spoke to the police before they contacted me, and talk some sense into them. And maybe I’d shake them a little.
Leaving after Colliding is the official name in Washington, D.C. for what is commonly referred to as Hit and Run. It occurs when a driver strikes another person, car, or dog then fails to immediately stop and render aid and/or exchange insurance information. As any D.C. criminal lawyer can tell you, it is a common occurrence in a city filled with busy streets and people in a hurry. What is also a common occurrence is that a witness to the accident gets either a license plate number, or some information about the vehicle that allows the D.C. police to identify it. Let me be clear: the information provided to the police by the witness or video almost always identified ONLY the vehicle involved, NOT the driver behind the wheel. Is this important? You bet it is.
In order to prove that a defendant committed hit and run, or Leaving after Colliding in Washington, D.C., the government has to prove, not just what vehicle was involved, but who was actually driving it. If a witness saw only the car, but not who was behind the wheel, the government has no way to prove its case. So how do the D.C. police try to solve this not-insignificant problem? Well, they send you a letter and ask you to come on down and prove their case for them. And the thing is, many Leaving after Colliding defendants do just that.
Top five reasons people follow the instructions on the Hit and Run Letter, and walk into a police station:
5. They always do what the police ask.
4. They want to confess.
3. They want to convince the police that they were not driving the car.
2. They think that if they help the police, the police will help them.
1. They think they have no choice.
Well, if you just want to make the police happy or want to get something off your chest, then I can’t help you. But I can tell you that 1) you will not convince the police you were driving the car, unless you are throwing someone else under the bus; 2) the police will not help you, unless you need help being arrested; and 3) you certainly do have a choice, and are under absolutely no obligation to respond to the Hit and Run letter.
It is easy to see why many people follow the instructions in the Hit and Run Letter, since it tells you that “you are to appear at the police station.” It even gives you a date and time, and gives you a list of things that “YOU MUST BRING.” The police use that forceful language on purpose, because they want to scare the suspect into compliance, and are banking on the belief that most people don’t know their rights. And much of the time, they’re right. But now you know. You’re welcome.
If you receive a Hit and Run letter, or have already been charged with Leaving After Colliding, you should contact a D.C. criminal defense lawyer immediately. Don’t let the police scare you into helping them do their job—which is arresting suspects like you. Attorney Jay Mykytiuk has experience in defending Washington, D.C. Leaving After Colliding charges.
Contact JPMLegal for a free office consultation today.