With your heart pounding, your stomach churning, and your adrenaline dwindling, you gaze out at the road. You may have hit something while rushing and didn’t stop your car. You have just been involved in a hit and run. It’s an unfortunate situation and a mistake that will follow you for years.
If you’ve been involved in such an incident, your mind likely races with one central thought—I committed a hit and run, how long will it take for the police to find me? Understanding police contact after a Colorado hit-and-run is crucial to planning your next steps.
What Is a Hit and Run?
Leaving the scene of an accident without providing your information–name, address, and registration number of your vehicle–or without providing assistance is considered a hit and run. In Colorado, you are legally required to stop and exchange relevant details, render aid if needed, and report the accident to the police. Ignoring these obligations can lead to serious criminal charges and civil lawsuits.
Penalties for a Hit and Run Conviction in Colorado
The severity of the accident dictates the potential consequences. Minor property damage might result in a misdemeanor, while serious injuries or death could lead to felony charges and hefty fines.
- Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in property damage is only a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense punishable by 10 to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $300.
- Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in minor or non-serious bodily injury, you could face a class 1 traffic misdemeanor punishable by ten days to 1 year in jail and fines between $300 to $1,000.
- Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious bodily injury, you could face a class 4 felony punishable by 2 to 6 years in prison and fines between $2,000 to $500,000.
- Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death, you could face a class 3 felony punishable by 4 to 12 years in prison and fines between $3,000 to $750,000.
In addition to the criminal penalties, you could also face civil liability through a personal injury lawsuit from anyone injured because of your hit and run. You could be ordered to pay compensatory damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, and more.
How Long After a Hit and Run Will Police Contact You?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to how long it will take for the police to contact you after a hit-and-run incident in Colorado. Timing can vary greatly, depending on several factors:
- Severity of the accident: Serious injuries or death prioritize the investigation, leading to quicker contact. Minor incidents might take longer.
- Availability of evidence: Eyewitness accounts, footage, or vehicle damage can expedite the investigation and contact. Weak evidence may lead to delays because the police may need help to identify or locate you.
- Police Resources: Understaffed departments may prioritize other cases, impacting your case’s timeline. The police may also have other cases that require their attention and resources.
Therefore, the police may contact you within hours, days, weeks, months, or even years after a hit-and-run incident in Colorado. It is also possible that they may never contact you at all.
What Can Happen While You Wait for Police Contact?
You might immediately see officers on the scene asking questions for high-priority cases. The police will likely gather initial information at the scene, including your statement, witness accounts, and any available evidence.
In the days and weeks following the accident, investigators will likely piece together evidence before contacting you. You may receive updates from the police as the investigation progresses. This could include information about potential leads, witness interviews, or progress in identifying the suspect.
Unfortunately, cold cases can develop, with police contact becoming irregular or even non-existent. However, silence does not mean the police aren’t investigating. Just because you haven’t heard anything from the police doesn’t mean they have stopped investigating the accident or you are no longer responsible. The police may still be working on your case behind the scenes, pursuing leads, or waiting for fresh evidence to surface.
It’s also important to keep in mind that, depending on the specifics of the situation, Colorado has statutes of limitations for leaving the scene of a car accident:
- One year for accidents that involve only property damage,
- Three years if significant injury results,
- Five years if death occurs, and
- Ten years for accidents involving vehicular homicide.
This means that the police can still charge you with a hit-and-run within these time limits.
What Can You Do While Waiting?
Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. They can help you navigate the legal process, explore your options, plan your defense, and safeguard your rights.
What If the Police Contact You?
Here’s what to do when the police come knocking:
- Remain calm and polite. Don’t panic or act aggressively. This could worsen your situation.
- Ask for identification. Ensure you’re dealing with an honest officer. Request their name, badge number, and contact information.
- Cooperate with the investigation. Comply with requests for identification, vehicle registration, or insurance information. This could help you avoid additional charges or penalties for obstructing justice or resisting arrest.
- Exercise your rights. You can remain silent and consult an attorney if you are a suspect. You don’t have to answer any potentially incriminating questions. You can politely decline to talk to the police until you have consulted with your lawyer.
- Contact your lawyer. You also have the right to request a lawyer if you are arrested or detained by the police.
If you have been involved in a hit-and-run incident in Colorado, you need an experienced and aggressive lawyer on your side. Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., is a criminal defense attorney who has helped countless clients defend their rights and freedom against hit-and-run charges throughout Colorado. Mark will fight for your rights and interests every step of the way. Mark’s decades of experience and deep knowledge of Colorado’s laws ensure robust representation. Contact Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., today for a free consultation.