Building a Hit and Run Defense in Westport
If you handed a ticket / summons for Evading Responsibility under C.G.S. § 14-224 in Westport Connecticut, it may seem like you just received a speeding ticket. Not quite. As the any of the best criminal lawyers in Westport Connecticut could explain to you, it’s actually a full-blown arrest for Evading Responsibility, or “Hit and Run” as it’s more commonly known. The charge carries serious penalties (including jail time), which can jeopardize your employment record, driver’s license, and car insurance rates.
Key Considerations for a Westport Evading Responsibility Arrest
The top Westport Connecticut criminal defense attorneys understand why prosecutors and police officers across Connecticut have such an issue with arrests for Evading Responsibility: First, they want to know why you left the accident scene – were you under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Did insurance lapse? Was your driver’s license suspended? And second, they want to know whether you caused an injury to a person or to property and left the scene without helping them or calling 911?
The best Westport Connecticut Evading / Hit and Run lawyers get calls from people who answer both “Yes” and “No” to the questions above, and who have been arrested for Evading Responsibility. Either way, it’s crucial that you contact a top Westport Connecticut criminal lawyer attorney who can assess your case, scrutinize the police reports in your case, and prepare you for your first court appearance in Norwalk Superior Court. Whether you had a lapse in judgment, were drunk driving and fled the scene, or were just scared and panicked after a minor fender bender, it’s not worth risking a permanent criminal record by going into court alone.
How Police Identify You & Your License Plate Numbers
Most arrests for C.G.S. § 14-224 Evading Responsibility in Westport Connecticut begin with a call to the Westport Police or Connecticut State Police, usually made by someone whose car had just been hit by a driver who fled the accident scene. The injured party typically gets the license plate number of the other vehicle and provides it to police (or parking lot surveillance footage can assist police in identifying cars). The police are then able to look up that plate number easily. Top Westport Connecticut criminal law firms typically get calls from people after Westport PD or Connecticut State Police have called them or have shown up at their front doors.
Get Rid of Westport Evading Responsibility Charges Before They Get to Court
Evading Responsibility / Hit and Run cases are a bit unique in that sometimes your top Westport Connecticut defense lawyer can run interference with the police and possibly persuade them not to arrest you, even if it was a true hit-and-run. Westport criminal attorneys may be able to assist the injured party quickly by getting their car fixed, before an arrest warrant Is submitted. They can work with you to smooth things over, pay for any repair bills very quickly, and possibly convert the Westport Police Department’s investigation to a civil matter, rather than a criminal matter. While it can take some legal finesse, this approach might save you from the headaches and costs of a full-blown criminal arrest, which comes with the risk of a permanent criminal record, publication of your name in online police blotters, and frequent appearances in Norwalk Superior Court where Westport Connecticut arrests are adjudicated.
Do I Need a Lawyer for my Westport Evading Responsibility / Hit-and-Run Arrest?
Absolutely. If you are charged with Evading Responsibility in Westport Connecticut, many Westport Connecticut police officers will try to alleviate your worries by saying that the court probably won’t want to prosecute the case, or that your summons will be handled just like a speeding ticket. That’s an outright lie.
While receiving a misdemeanor or felony Hit-and-Run summons might feel like a speeding ticket – it’s not. The best Westport Connecticut criminal lawyers attorneys will tell you that once the case gets to Norwalk Superior Court, the police officers do not have much control over what happens. In fact, Norwalk Superior Court prosecutors will want to know exactly WHY you fled the accident scene. That’s why your attorney—and not you—will need to have a negotiation / discussion with the Norwalk prosecutors on the very first court date. That first court appearance is critical…allowing your criminal lawyer to start framing a narrative and strategy to reach a favorable disposition. So if you have been arrested for Hit-and-Run / Evading Responsibility / CGS 14-224 in Westport Connecticut, be sure to get in touch with a top Connecticut defense attorney before your court date, and remember to bring them your summons or any paperwork related to your arrest for their review.
Most Common Westport Evading Responsibility Arrest Scenarios
Some of the best criminal lawyers in Westport Connecticut recognize that the most frequent arrests for Evading Responsibility / Hit-and-Run under C.G.S. § 14-224 occur when someone is involved in a motor vehicle accident that causes either property damage or personal injury, and then leaves the scene without calling the police, without administering help, or without leaving insurance and contact information. In this situation, Westport Police typically believe that you fled the scene to avoid an arrest for DUI or DWI, or suspect you didn’t have a valid driver’s license, weren’t properly registered or insured, or were driving without the vehicle owner’s permission. In the minds of the Westport police officers, why else would you leave the accident scene?
A Misdemeanor Summons Ticket for Evading Responsibility is an Arrest
There are 2 ways you can be arrested for Hit-and-Run / Evading Responsibility under C.G.S. § 14-224. The first option Westport Police have is to take you down to the Westport Police station and formally book, fingerprint and photograph you (even releasing your mug shot to the local Westport Connecticut online news websites). Alternatively, and with the assistance of a top Westport Connecticut criminal law firm, you might be able convince Westport police to just issue you a Misdemeanor Summons or Complaint Ticket for Evading Responsibility and send you on your way (avoiding any online publicity of your Westport Connecticut arrest).
Either way, whether you are formally booked or are just handed a summons ticket, it’s still a criminal arrest for Evading Responsibility, and will still appear on any background check unless and until your top Westport Connecticut criminal lawyer attorney can get your case dismissed and expunged from your record.
Westport Arrests for Evading Responsibility Can Be Misdemeanors or Felonies
Under Connecticut’s criminal penal code, C.G.S. § 14-224, Evading Responsibility has two separate sections, one that classifies Evading as a misdemeanor, and another that specifies the requirements for felony Evading Responsibility arrests in Connecticut. When deciding whether to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor, Westport Connecticut police officers or Connecticut State Troopers will look closely at the damages and injuries you have allegedly caused. Felony Evading Responsibility charges can only be charged when you’ve caused “death or serious physical injury,” such as broken bones, etc. Everything else would be considered a misdemeanor, no matter how much property damage you may have caused.
It will be up to your top Westport Connecticut criminal lawyer attorney to closely scrutinize all police reports and hospital records of the alleged victims to make sure that you were not overcharged with a felony, which could wreak havoc on your record and employment background checks.
Can I Go to Jail for a Westport Connecticut Evading Responsibility Arrest?
Yes. Generally, a guilty plea to Misdemeanor Evading Responsibility exposes you to up to 1 year in jail, a period of probation, a maximum $600 fine, and a driver’s license suspension. Convictions for Felony Evading Responsibility arrests in Westport can carry up to 10 years in jail, a period of probation, a fine of up to $10,000, and a lengthy driver’s license suspension. And as of the new criminal amendments that went into effect on October 1, 2016, if you have prior convictions for Evading Responsibility, then you may be subject to repeat offender sentence enhancements.
All Westport Connecticut Evading Arrests Are Sent to Norwalk Superior Court
Whether you are arrested for C.G.S § 14-224 by the Westport Police Department, or by the Connecticut State Police (when the Hit-and-Run takes place on I-95 or on the Merritt Parkway in Westport Connecticut), you must appear in Norwalk Superior Court to respond to your charges. As there is no criminal courthouse in the Town of Westport Connecticut, arrests for any crimes or motor vehicle violations are immediately transferred to the Norwalk Superior Court, located at 17 Belden Avenue. So if you are arrested or ticketed for Evading Responsibility in Westport, be sure to consult with a top Norwalk Connecticut criminal lawyer who regularly appears in that courthouse.
Even a One-Car Accident Triggers a Connecticut Evading Responsibility Arrest
While it might sound slightly counterintuitive, any of the best Westport Connecticut criminal lawyers can explain that even a one-car accident can get you arrested in Connecticut for Evading Responsibility under CGS 14-224. So, even if you hit a tree, or some other object, and only your car is damaged, the law requires you to report the accident to the police department. Many of the Norwalk Superior Courthouse “regular” criminal lawyers and attorneys often see one-car Evading Responsibility arrests. And while no other property is damaged except your own, Westport Police continue to enforce this law in order to prevent people from engaging in insurance fraud and filing false claims just to get their car repaired for free by their insurance companies.
Make Sure Westport Police Know You Were Not Drunk Driving!
The best criminal lawyers / attorneys in Westport Connecticut attorneys know that Connecticut prosecutors and police officers usually suspect that you left the scene of a car accident in Westport because you were doing something wrong. Westport Police and Norwalk Superior Court prosecutors assume that you were driving drunk, had no insurance, did not properly install an Ignition Interlock Device, or did not have a valid diver’s license.
That’s why your top Westport Connecticut criminal defense attorney needs to allay their concerns as quickly as possible, possibly even before an arrest warrant is signed. Often, the real reason people leave the scene of an accident is because they panic, and get scared because it’s late at night or unsafe to pull over on I-95 or the Merritt Parkway shoulders. These people will end up driving home before really processing what happened. So if you are smart enough to call any of the best Westport Connecticut criminal law firms, they may contact the Connecticut State Troopers or Westport Police on your behalf to help you avoid an arrest—especially if you weren’t committing a Westport DUI / DWI at the time of the accident.
DMV Consequences / License Suspensions for Westport Evading Arrests
If you were arrested in Westport Connecticut for Hit and Run / Evading Responsibility under C.G.S. § 14-224, then it’s important to understand the legal consequences to your permanent record as well as your driving record. All Westport Connecticut arrests report to Norwalk Superior Court, located at 17 Belden Avenue. A guilty plea or conviction at trial for Evading Responsibility in Westport will result in either a felony or misdemeanor. The length of your Connecticut driver’s license suspension will depend on whether you have any prior convictions for Evading Responsibility and whether anyone was seriously injured in the accident. If there were serious injuries or even a death, then you face a felony conviction and a one-year driver’s license suspension from the Connecticut DMV (2 years if it’s not your first Evading Responsibility conviction). If there were no serious injuries and just property damage, then you face a misdemeanor criminal conviction and a 90-day driver’s license suspension (or a 1 year suspension if you have prior Evading Responsibility convictions). For more information on DMV consequences, you can ask your Westport Connecticut criminal lawyer to consult C.G.S. § 14-111.
Can I Get Arrested for Evading Responsibility if I Own the Car but Wasn’t Driving?
Yes! If your car is involved in a hit-and-run accident, and the Westport Police Department cannot determine who was operating the car, then you—as the owner of the car—can be arrested in Westport for Evading Responsibility, even if you were not there! Connecticut criminal laws allow police departments to “impute control of the car” to the legal owner. It’s a little counterintuitive – and the burden then falls on you and your top Westport Connecticut criminal lawyer attorney to prove that you were not driving the car. You always have the right to remain silent, but if you do that in a case like this, then you greatly increase the chance that you will get arrested for Hit-and-Run / Evading Responsibility in Westport Connecticut under CGS 14-224. This is why it’s critical that your lawyer files motions in Norwalk Superior Court relating to your alibi, including demanding the preservation of witness statements, cell phone tower records, debit and credit card receipts, and surveillance footage.
What About a One-Car Accident – Can That Be Evading Responsibility?
Surprisingly, yes it can. Westport and Connecticut State Police regularly arrest people who are involved in a one-car accident, cause property damage, and then leave the scene. This happens is small Fairfield County cities and shoreline towns like Westport, where property damage can often add up to thousands of dollars of damage. So, whether the damage is to private property, like a mailbox, fancy stone wall, lawn, or garden, or to town property like guardrails or barriers, the owner will be looking for someone to pay them to repair the damage. They’ll either look for the person responsible for the accident or to an insurance company to pay. If an insurance company does get involved, it will need to rely on police reports to determine who is at fault and who is liable, which is why Connecticut law requires you to report even a one-car accident. So if you are being investigated for or are arrested in Westport Connecticut for a one-car Evading Responsibility accident, then get in touch with a top Westport defense attorney right away to assist you in fixing your mistake and getting rid of your case as efficiently as possible.
Can I Get My Westport Evading Responsibility Arrest Off the Internet & Google?
The Westport Police Department follows all state and federal Freedom of Information Act or “FOIA” laws. These FOIA laws require police to make information related to your arrest report public—including a summary of your arrest, your address, your full name, and even your mug shot. Local news websites like the Westport Minuteman, Westport Patch, Westport Daily News, and Westport News fail to appreciate how an article reporting your Westport Evading Responsibility arrest can damage your reputation in the community. As the best Westport Connecticut criminal lawyers know, the more people in Westport who click the link to your article, the faster the story will climb to the top of Google’s search results, eventually causing your arrest articles to appear on the first page when people search your name.
How Does Connecticut Internet Scrubbing Work?
Top Westport Connecticut criminal law firms are often asked – can anything be done about my online arrest article? The answer is maybe. Back in 2011, the team of internet lawyers at the Mark Sherman Law Group launched their “Internet Scrubbing” practice group with one goal in mind: to hold Connecticut online news publishers accountable for causing damage to our clients’ online reputations. Our Internet Scrubbing group works to get your CT arrest records off of the Internet and off of Google’s search results as cost-effectively and as quickly as possible. Westport Connecticut media companies know that if our firm is involved, then they will be in for an expensive legal battle that’s probably not worth the company’s time and money to fight. For more on our innovative Internet Scrubbing group, click here.
What to Expect Immediately Following a Westport Connecticut Evading Arrest
The best Westport Connecticut criminal attorneys and law firms recognize that a C.G.S. § 14-224 arrest for Evading Responsibility requires an experienced criminal attorney, and a solid understanding of the various defense strategies available in Westport Connecticut Hit and Run arrests. There are a lot of moving parts to a Westport Evading Responsibility arrest: victims wanting to be repaid for property damage or personal injury, digital surveillance evidence that needs to be preserved right away, hospital records that may need to be preserved (as evidence that you were not drunk driving), and insurance companies that will be quickly harassing you for tape-recorded statements and claim information.
On top of all of that, you will be up against a Norwalk Superior Court state prosecutor who needs to be convinced by your top Westport Connecticut criminal attorney lawyer to drop your Westport Connecticut arrest for Evading Responsibility. This is a true balancing act, and only experienced Westport criminal attorneys (and not divorce or civil lawyers who just dabble in criminal law) will know how to effectively litigate your case.
Do I have to Use My AR to Get Rid of my Westport Evading Responsibility Arrest?
Not always. Connecticut’s Pre-trial Accelerated Rehabilitation Program—or “AR” as it’s more commonly called in court—is a program in Connecticut offered to first time offenders. You may only get one AR program in your lifetime so don’t let a Westport Connecticut real estate or divorce lawyer just put you in the AR program for an Evading Responsibility case without discussing alternatives with you.
It’s always worth the effort by your top Westport Connecticut criminal law firm to determine whether there’s a “non-AR” alternative to getting your case dismissed. With a few court appearances, your top Westport criminal attorney has a shot at trying to convince the prosecutor to “nolle” (or drop) your Westport Evading / Hit-and-Run charge. Another option is to try to get your Westport Evading arrest under CGS 14-224 reduced to an infraction under C.G.S. § 14-13(b), which is called “Failure to Stop and Show Proof of Insurance.” Getting it reduced to the infraction is always worth it, as it’s not a moving violation, and it saves your AR in case you are arrested for something more serious in the future.
Will My Auto Insurance Go Up after a Westport Evading Responsibility Arrest?
Possibly. Your auto insurance carrier will likely be involved in your Westport Connecticut Evading Responsibility arrest. Especially when there is property damage or personal injury. That’s when your insurance carrier will send in their investigators / insurance adjusters to interview you and review the Westport Police reports to figure out how the accident happened, whose fault it was, the severity of any damages or injuries, and who will pay for it. And if you’re not careful about what you say to your insurance company, they could deny coverage and you could be on the hook for paying for all of the damages and injuries. So make sure you speak to a top Westport Connecticut criminal attorney before you speak to your insurance company, as many of their questions can expose you to criminal liability. Remember, the statements you make to your own insurance company are usually recorded and can be used against you by Connecticut prosecutors, so you need to answer them very carefully.
Get in Touch With a Westport Connecticut Criminal Lawyer Today
If you have been arrested, received a ticket, or are being investigated for Evading Responsibility in Westport Connecticut under C.G.S. § 14-224, then contact an experienced attorney at the Mark Sherman Law Group today. We are results-oriented – our goal is to help you avoid an arrest altogether, or if you’ve already been charged, to get your Westport Evading / Hit-and-Run case closed as quickly as possible. For more about our firm, check out our certified reviews from former Evading Responsibility clients on Avvo.com. Give us a call at (203) 358-4700 – we are available 24/7 to take your call.