Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Ohio

Leaving the scene of an accident is a serious crime with serious consequences. No matter what the reasoning is behind leaving the scene, the ramifications can be devastating on all the parties involved in the accident. In short, no one involved in an accident should leave the scene under any circumstances. There are a number of things Ohio law requires all the operators involved in the accident to do and until completed, it can be a crime to leave the scene.

Is It Illegal to Leave the Scene of an Accident in Ohio?

Failure to stop after an accident in Ohio can be a serious felony carrying significant criminal penalties in serious injury cases. There will likely be significant ramifications impacting your future employment, insurance coverage and license no matter what the reason was for leaving. Furthermore, in this day in age, there are videos and often witnesses which means leaving the scene is unlikely to go unnoticed and will be documented in most cases. Here’s an overview of what you should do after a car accident.

What Happens if You Panicked and Left The Scene of An Accident in Ohio?

If you are the victim or at fault for the accident, you can be found guilty of a crime if you leave the scene after an accident in Ohio. Under Ohio law, it is a criminal offense under Ohio Revised Code § 4549.02 to leave the scene of an accident without stopping to identify oneself and making a reasonable effort to do so whether or not you were at fault for the accident!

It doesn’t matter much if you were leaving the scene of an accident to avoid a DUI or if you panicked and left the scene of the accident. Anyone involved can be charged with a crime in Ohio if they leave the scene for any reason under the law if they do not follow the requirements of the statute.

It certainly will be more frowned upon if you caused the accident and left the scene to avoid being caught for a DUI but it doesn’t matter if the person was leaving the scene to avoid a DUI – they would still potentially be charged with leaving the scene in addition to a separate charge for driving under the influence. This can make the circumstances of the DUI much, much worse and the prosecutor is highly unlikely to be lenient in such cases.

Ohio Law Governing Leaving the Scene of An Accident

ORC §4549.02 requires that the operator of the motor vehicle, having knowledge of the accident or collision, immediately shall:
  1. Stop the operator’s motor vehicle at the scene of the accident or collision.
  2. Remain at the scene of the accident or collision until the operator has given the operator’s name and address and, if the operator is not the owner, the name and address of the owner of that motor vehicle, together with the registered number of that motor vehicle, to all of the following:
    1. Any person injured in the accident or collision;
    2. The operator, occupant, owner, or attendant of any motor vehicle damaged in the accident or collision;
    3. The police officer at the scene of the accident or collision.

In instances where there was a serious injury, the operator “shall remain at the scene of the accident or collision until a police officer arrives, unless removed from the scene by an emergency vehicle operated by a political subdivision or an ambulance.” In instances where the collision was with a unattended vehicle with no operator at the time, the operator who collides with the motor vehicle “shall securely attach the information required to be given in this section, in writing, to a conspicuous place in or on the unoccupied or unattended motor vehicle.”

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What Are The Penalties For Leaving The Scene Of An Accident In Ohio?

Leaving the scene of an accident can be a felony in Ohio depending on the facts of the case and knowledge of the operator who left the scene. As stated, under ORC §4549.02, it is a criminal offense with criminal penalties for those caught and found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident. This includes fines, potential jail time, and a criminal record that brings life consequences such as difficulty finding employment and a restriction of certain rights. A violation of the statute is considered a “failure to stop” charge and whoever generally violates the law in an average case without serious injuries is guilty of a first degree misdemeanor.

In cases where the accident resulted in a serious injury, however, the following increased penalties may apply depending on the facts:

  1. If the offender knew that the accident or collision resulted in serious physical harm to a person, a fourth degree felony.
  2. If the accident or collision results in the death of a person, failure to stop after an accident is whichever of the following is applicable:
    1. If the offender knew that the accident or collision resulted in the death of a person, a second degree felony.
    2. In cases without such knowledge of the death of a person, a third degree felony.
  3. Other cases involving serious injuries, a fifth degree felony.

In addition to the criminal penalties for leaving the scene of an accident in Ohio, there can be serious impacts to your driver’s license. ORC 4549.02 states that “In all cases, the court, in addition to any other penalties provided by law, shall impose upon the offender a class five suspension of the offender’s driver’s license, commercial driver’s license, temporary instruction permit, probationary license, or nonresident operating privilege.” This type of suspension can impact your ability to drive, maintain employment (especially if you are a CDL holder), and can increase insurance premiums significantly. If you did not show financial responsibility as a result of this incident, the court can impose further restitution penalties as well.

About the Authors: Sawan & Sawan is a multi-generational, family owned law firm practicing law in the areas of car accidents, truck accidents, insurance claims, personal injury, and more. Our firm practices law in Ohio (Toledo, Columbus), Georgia, and Michigan.

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Dennis P. Sawan

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Christopher A. Sawan


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