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Hit-and-run offences: What to know

The chalk line of a car accident victim. Stock photo by Getty Images.
Stock photo by Getty Images

Everyone has that feeling of panic. You did something, you feel like you can’t breathe and you just have to get out of here. Unfortunately, a lot of hit-and-run drivers have that feeling, too.

The problem is that hit-and-run drivers make things a lot worse for themselves, and others, when they don’t stay at the scene of the accident. In fact, not staying at the scene of an accident that you caused, or in which you were involved, is a criminal offence.

You will be charged either under the Criminal Code of Canada, for “failing to stop at the scene of the accident,” or under provincial statute for the same charge. One thing is for sure though, you will be charged.

Criminal charges

Under the Criminal Code, hit-and-run offences are classified under s. 252 and are called “failure to stop at the scene of the accident” and “with intent to escape civil or criminal liability fails to stop the vehicle, vessel or, if possible, the aircraft, give his or her name and address and, where any person has been injured or appears to require assistance, offer assistance.”

Section 252 further clarifies that every person commits an offence, who has the care, charge or control of a vehicle, vessel or aircraft that is involved in an accident with:

  • another person;
  • a vehicle, vessel or aircraft; or
  • in the case of a vehicle, cattle in the charge of another person.

The punishments for this offence are quite steep. If you are found guilty of just failing to stop, you could face up to five years in prison. Where bodily harm has been caused, you could face up to 10 years in prison.

The possibilities of the charges you can face are steep. Besides failing to stop and remain at the scene and if, due to your failure, the victim faces more harm or even death, then you may also be charged with criminal negligence and manslaughter and more.

Provincial legislation

Some provinces also have legislation to deal with hit-and-runs.

For instance, British Columbia has the Motor Vehicle Act. In s. 68 of the act — named “duty of the driver at accident” — the legislation requires a driver to stop and stay at the scene of an accident.

The legal consequences are very steep, even under provincial quasi-criminal law. You are looking at considerable fines, loss of driving points and possible imprisonment.

Civil Charges

Not only will you face criminal charges if you fail to remain at the scene of the accident, but you will most likely be sued civilly as well — more than you may have faced had you not fled the scene of the accident.

For instance, you will most likely be sued for negligence (next to criminal negligence) in tort law. A charge of negligence in civil court is made worse when the driver flees the scene of the accident, because the driver had a duty of care toward the victim(s).

Fleeing the scene is never a good idea. Most people will be caught and face much harsher consequences, than if they had remained at the scene and helped the victim(s).

Read more:

Criminal Code of Canada s. 252

Failing to remain at the scene of an accident Ontario