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Traffic - Penalty Change in Leaving the Scene of an Accident, 42-4-1601

On June 6, 2012, Colorado's Governor Hickenlooper signed into law House Bill 12-1084, which increases the penalty for the traffic charge Leaving the Scene of an Accident resulting in serious bodily injury in Denver, Jefferson, Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas County, from a class 5 to a class 4 felony. This crime is similar to the crime of Failure to Report an Accident.  C.R.S. 42-4-1606.  The increased penalties will take effect this August unless a referendum petition is filed.

Whenever there is a change to penalties to existing criminal statutes, I am usually suspicious. Either there has been a strong public reaction to a high profile event, or legislators are busily trying to create publicity during an election season. I suspect very little thought is put into discovering whether a problem in the current law such as the traffic offense of Leaving the Scene of an Accident really exists, or if the proposed law will result in making the community a safer place.  Legislators often focus on increasing their job security as the foundation of new legislation.

When a person violates C.R.S. 42-4-1601 by Leaving the Scene of an Accident, they are usually reacting out of a frightened mental state. This crime is seldom ever planned and the punishment is not taken into account. It is unlikely that someone will take the time to weigh the risk of the potential sentence against the reward of not getting caught or a new, harsher punishment. The current presumptive range for a class 5 felony is one to three years imprisonment, with a mandatory two years of supervision. Changing any crime to a class 4 felony will increase the range from two to six years, with a mandatory three years of supervision. See C.R.S 18-1.3-401(V)(A). I don't see the benefit to public safety in this law change.

If you are in an accident in Weld, Jefferson, Denver, or Arapahoe County, or any county in Colorado, and someone is seriously injured, and you are accused of leave the scene of the accident, there will be serious consequences. You should remember that whatever you say will be used against you in a court of law. So be smart, exercise your right to remain silent, and call us at 303-731-0719. Together we can protect your future.

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