There are many reasons why a person can go to jail for being in a car accident, some obvious and others not so obvious.
An obvious one would be if the accident was caused by the driver’s inebriation and they clearly smell of alcohol. In fact, all drivers should know that if you get behind the wheel while intoxicated, you risk getting into an accident and being arrested on criminal charges.
Another obvious time when you will be arrested for being in a car accident is if you killed or seriously wounded passengers in your vehicle, passengers in the other vehicle, or pedestrians. You may also be arrested if you caused property damage.
Most times, however, a car accident will not lead to criminal charges. There is a difference between criminal charges and civil suits. The driver of the other vehicle may try to sue you if they believe you are at fault, but that case would be handled by a civil court. Your insurance rates may also go up, but that will not affect your criminal background or record.
But there are other times you need to be aware of that can land you in jail.
It is never a good idea to leave the scene of an accident, even if you’re afraid of being arrested for illegal items inside your car or a warrant out for your arrest, or simply believing that there wasn’t enough damage to validate waiting for the police.
The other driver may be able to get your information, or witnesses may have captured you on a cell phone camera. If you are caught leaving the scene of an accident then you will be charged with a class A misdemeanor, which carries with it a sentence of up to one year in jail, $1,000 in fines, and a possible license suspension or revocation.
Always stay at the scene of the accident until the police leave, and be sure to get a copy of the police report before you leave the scene.
Again, almost everyone knows that if you drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it will impair your driving.
However, if you have any prior DUIs or a suspended license, you can face higher fines, more jail time, and the installation of an ignition interlock device.
A second DWI in Missouri with a prior conviction can come with a penalty of 1 year in jail. A third comes with the penalty of up to 4 years of jail time.
While this is much more rare, if there is a warrant for your arrest and the police respond to the scene of the accident, they will have to arrest you.
If you’re aware of a possible warrant for your arrest, the best thing to do is to go to the nearest police station yourself rather than being arrested after an accident.
You will want to speak to a car accident lawyer immediately. An attorney will be able to review your case and represent you in front of a judge and negotiate a more lenient sentence for you.