There may be many reasons that a New Jersey driver who is involved in an accident leaves the scene. A drunk driver is not thinking clearly; that he or she got behind the wheel in the first place is proof of that. A driver with a suspended license or one who is avoiding arrest for any number of reasons may simply bolt. Perhaps the driver means to report the accident anonymously. With adrenaline pumping through the body, triggering the “flight or fight” instinct, flight may seem the right choice to some. Regardless of the reason, leaving the scene of an accident is never a good decision and can result in criminal charges.

State laws require drivers of all vehicles involved in an accident to remain at the scene. If the accident involves only property damage to a car, you are expected to make a reasonable attempt to locate the owner and exchange insurance information if the car is unattended. If you do not, you could be fined $200-$400, jailed for up to 30 days, or both. Plus, your license will be suspended for six months. A second offense carries fines of $400-$600, a jail term of 30-90 days and suspension of your license for one year.

If the accident results in injuries or death to other drivers or pedestrians, you can be charged $500-$1,000 and sentenced to 180 days in jail for leaving the scene. A subsequent offense carries bigger fines, $1,000-$2,000 and/or 180 days in jail, as well as permanent loss of your driver’s license.

If you are involved in an accident, there are certain steps you should follow as outlined by FindLaw. The first is to check with other drivers and passengers and administer first aid if needed or call for emergency medical services.

Next, contact the police to report the accident. This step will be important to your defense; a formal police record contains important evidence and serves to preserve the facts. It also serves as a record of your and other drivers’ actions.

You will need to exchange driver’s license information, as well as proof of insurance, with other drivers. If there are witnesses to the accident, it is a good idea to speak with them and get contact information. Finally, contact your insurance carrier, as well as those of other drivers if needed.