If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident in the state of Massachusetts, you have a duty to immediately stop at the scene and provide your name, address, and registration information to anyone who sustained injuries or property damage as a result of the accident. If there is no one available on scene to give your information to, you must report the accident as soon as possible to the police department in the city/town in which the accident occurred.

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24, leaving the scene of an accident is a crime punishable by a jail or state prison sentence, including potential mandatory minimum sentences. Depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the crash, a defendant may be charged with one of three crimes related to leaving the scene of an accident. In addition to a potential jail or prison sentence, defendants found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident face lengthy license suspensions or loss of driving privileges.

Leaving Scene of Accident Involving Property Damage

In Massachusetts, Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Property Damage is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to two years in jail or a house of correction. To find a defendant is guilty of this offense, the prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant operated a motor vehicle;
  • While operating the motor vehicle, the defendant caused damage to another vehicle or property either by colliding with it or in some other way;
  • The defendant knew he/she collided with another’s property or had in some way caused damage to another’s property; and 
  • After causing such damage, the defendant did not stop and make known his/her name, address, and vehicle registration number.

The scope of the property damage is not relevant except to the extent that it may be circumstantial evidence of whether or not the defendant knew a collision occurred. Furthermore, a defendant can be found to be the operator of the motor vehicle even if nobody witnessed him or her driving the vehicle, so long as there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, and nobody else, was the operator of the vehicle involved in the crash.

Potential Penalties:

  • Jail / house of correction sentence ranging from 2 weeks to 2 years
  • Fine ranging from $20 – $200

Additional potential penalties include a license suspension or loss of driving privileges and a term of probation in lieu of a jail or house of correction sentence. License suspensions can range from sixty (60) days to one year for a subsequent offense that occurs within three years of the initial conviction.

Leaving Scene of Accident Involving Personal Injury Not Resulting in Death

Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Personal Injury Not Resulting in Death is a misdemeanor criminal offense punishable by up to two years in jail or a house of correction, including a six-month mandatory minimum sentence. To convict a defendant of this charge, the prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant operated a motor vehicle;
  • On a public way or upon a way or in a place where the public has access;
  • The defendant knowingly collided with or injured another person; and
  • After the collision or injury, the defendant did not stop and provide his/her name, home address, and motor vehicle registration number.

NOTE: the scope of the injury is not relevant except to the extent that it may be circumstantial evidence of whether or not the defendant knew a collision occurred.

What Does “Operation” Mean?

A person “operates” a motor vehicle not only while doing all of the well-known things that drivers do as they travel on a street or highway, but also when doing any act which directly tends to set the vehicle in motion. The law is that a person is “operating” a motor vehicle whenever he or she is in the vehicle and intentionally manipulates some mechanical or electrical part of the vehicle (i.e., the gear shift, the ignition) which, alone or in sequence, will set the vehicle in motion. See MA Criminal Model Jury Instructions.

“Collide” means to strike together. The statute applies whenever the defendant is in some way a contributor, a partial cause in the collision, but not where the defendant is only a passive participant such as a situation where a pedestrian falls or walks into the defendant’s stopped vehicle.

Potential Penalties:

  • Jail / house of correction sentence ranging from 6 months to 2 years, including a six-month mandatory minimum sentence
  • Fine ranging from $500 to $1,000
  • Probation & probation fees
  • 1-year license loss after a conviction for first offense
  • 2-year license loss for a subsequent conviction 

* This offense does not allow for a continuance without a guilty finding or what’s commonly referred to as a continuance without a finding or “CWOF.”

Leaving Scene of Accident Involving Personal Injury Resulting in Death

Pursuant to M.G.L. c. 90 §24(2)(a ½)(2), Leaving the Scene of an Accident Resulting in Death is a felony offense punishable by up to 10 years in state prison. To find the defendant guilty, the prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant operated a motor vehicle;
  • On a public way or upon a way or in a place where the public has access;
  • The defendant collided with another person or caused injuries to another resulting in death;
  • The defendant knew that he collided with or caused the death of another;
  • After such collision or injury, the defendant did not stop and provide his/her name, home address, and motor vehicle registration number; and
  • The defendant failed to stop and provide the required information for the purpose of avoiding prosecution or apprehension.

To find a defendant guilty, the prosecution is not required to prove he or she knew the collision resulted in death. It is sufficient to prove the defendant knew he or she collided with another and failed to stop and provide their information, but not that he or she knew the collision resulted in death.

Potential Penalties:

  • State prison sentence ranging from 2.5 years to 10 years
  • Jail or House of Correction sentence ranging from one year to 2.5 years
  • One-year mandatory minimum sentence. A defendant must serve one year of any sentence before becoming eligible for parole, probation, work release, or a reduced sentence for good conduct.
  • Fine ranging from $1,000 – $5,000
  • Probation & probation fees
  • Minimum 3-year license loss or loss of driving privileges
  • 10-year license loss for a subsequent conviction

Additionally, because the charge is a felony, a defendant will be required to provide a DNA sample upon a conviction.

Requirement to Complete a Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report Form

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 26 imposes a requirement that a person complete a Commonwealth of Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report if he or she was operating a motor vehicle involved in an accident where:

  • Any person was killed;
  • Any person was injured; and/or 
  • There was damage over $1,000 to any one vehicle or other property.

The Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report Form must be filed with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles within five (5) days (unless the person is physically incapable due to incapacity) and with the police department in the town/city where the accident occurred. If the operator is incapacitated but not the owner of the vehicle, the owner must file the Crash Report Form within 5 days based on his or her knowledge and information about the accident.

NOTE: Contact a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney before completing and filing the Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report Form with the Registrar or police department.

Related Charges

In cases involving charges of Leaving the Scene of an Accident, defendants are often charged with other driving-related criminal offenses, including:

  • Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol/Drugs (OUI/DUI), in violation of M.G.L. c. 90 s. 24
  • Negligent Operation of Motor Vehicle / Operating to Endanger (M.G.L. c. 90 s. 24(2)(a))
  • Reckless Operation of Motor Vehicle, (M.G.L. c. 90 s. 24(2)(a))
  • Operation of Motor Vehicle after Suspended/Revoked License (OAS) (M.G.L. c. 90 s. 23)

Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer (508) 226-4500

If you or someone you know has been charged with a motor vehicle related crime, contact Riccio Law, LLC today. Attorney Anthony Riccio is a former prosecutor who has worked thousands of criminal cases over the course of his career. With his experience handling driving-related cases, Attorney Riccio aggressively defends his clients in court by pursuing all available defenses. Whether fighting the charges at trial or negotiating a favorable resolution, at Riccio Law the goal is to beat the case or get the best possible outcome in a plea deal. 

With offices in Quincy and Attleboro, Massachusetts, Attorney Riccio represents individuals on driving charges and other misdemeanor and felony crimes in state and federal court all throughout the Commonwealth, including Boston and Suffolk County, Middlesex County, and Southeastern Massachusetts including Norfolk County, Bristol County, Plymouth County, and the Cape & Islands. To schedule a free consultation with Attorney Riccio, call (508) 226-4500 our use the contact form.