H. Michael Steinberg has over 32 years experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
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Colorado Hit and Run Laws Providing Incentive to Flee the Scene – May Change

A Recent Denver Post article points out an anomaly in the law

” End incentive for fleeing scene of a bad accident”

The scenario is this. Intoxicated driver gets into an accident. Realizes that if he or she stays at the scene and calls the police as the law requires – they will be charged with DUI.

They make the decision to leave the scene
This is the rub. Without reaching the moral aspect of this decision – the police are put in a very difficult position as the evidence of what occurred most often leaves with the suspect.

The article in the post lists several incidents involving injuries in hit and run accidents.

A 31-year-old man was arrested in Pueblo after fleeing the scene of an accident that injured three people. Police suspect he was driving under the influence of alcohol.
And a 10-year-old in west Denver miraculously escaped injury this month when he was hit by a car that was speeding down South Irving Street. The driver never stopped.
Those are just a few of the most recent high-profile hit and runs.”

At present — the Colorado law can charge the individual – if they can identify that person as the driver of the suspect car – with what is commonly referred to as “Hit and Run.”

It is true. A “hitch” in the laws “actually creates an incentive to flee an accident if the driver is drunk”

If an idividual stays at the scene and there are injuries to the victims of the accident… the charge will be Vehicular Assault – a Class 4 felony.

Not only is that charge much more significant than the misdemeanor Hit and Run charge -(if that charge can be proven) – it is a crime that is identified under the law as a “strict liability” cirme – meaning that other than identifying the driver as intoxicated – there is no legal defense to the crime.


H. Michael’s Take

Prosecutors often take a very hard line in these cases… seeking prison if they can prove their case. This “no prisoners” approach to prosecuting these cases in the already impossibly harsh political environment for DUI prosecutions has actually made fleeing the scene of a serious DUI accident a “logical alternative” to accepting responsibility for one’s actions.

If the public perceived more compassion in these unintended accidents – the fear driven decision to leave the scene would no longer seem to be the “only way out.”

To Read more: see the Editorial: End incentive for fleeing scene of a bad accident – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_18131397#ixzz1OmZC7c69