This article provides a brief summary of the law in relation to the Criminal Code offence of failing to stop or failing to remain at the scene of a traffic accident. In most provinces, a provincial driving statute such as the Ontario Highway Traffic Act may also regulate the law in relation to failing to remain at the scene of an accident. This article does not consider the law with respect to those provincial statutes. If you or someone you know has been criminally charged with failing to remain at the scene of an accident, contact a criminal lawyer. Daniel Brown can be reached for an immediate consultation at (416) 297-7200.
Frequently asked questions about failing to remain at the scene of an accident:
- How does the prosecutor prove I failed to stop at the scene of an accident?
- Is it a criminal offence to fail to remain at the scene of a single motor vehicle accident?
- What information is required before discharging one’s duties to remain at the scene of an accident?
- Can the duty to remain at the scene of an accident be delegated to another person?
- What if a person leaves the scene briefly before returning?
- Must there be damage or injury before a person is required to stop a vehicle and render assistance?
- Accident with an unoccupied vehicle – must the driver stop?
- What if the driver did not know an accident has occurred – is he still guilty if he didn’t stop?
- What are the penalties for failing to stop at the scene of an accident?
- Can I appeal a conviction or sentence for failing to stop:
To obtain a conviction for failing to stop at the scene of an accident, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- 1) the accused had the care, charge or control of a vehicle;
- 2) that the vehicle was involved in an accident;
- 3) the accident was with either (i) another person or (ii) a vehicle;
- 4) the accused, with the intent to escape civil or criminal liability failed to:
- a) stop the vehicle;
- b) give his or her name and address; and
- c) where any person has been injured or appears to require assistance, offer assistance.
There is no requirement imposed by the Criminal Code of Canada to remain at the scene of an accident involving only a single motor vehicle as long as there are no injuries to any passengers of that vehicle. The Criminal Code only imposes obligations on a driver to remain at the scene of an accident if another person or vehicle was involved in that accident.
A person involved in an accident involving a another person or vehicle must communicate his name and address in some meaningful and effective way to bring home to the other party that information, so that he or she may follow it up with the police or by pressing a civil claim, knowing that he or she has the right person. Once this is done, the person has discharged their duties at the scene.
Section 252 of the Criminal Code of Canada imposes a personal obligation on the person involved in the accident to remain at the scene for the purpose of providing assistance and their personal information as required by law. This duty cannot be delegated to others such as the passenger of the vehicle involved in the accident.
The Court will look at the reason why a person left the scene of an accident to determine whether they intended to evade civil or criminal responsibility. If the Court concludes that the person left to obtain assistance and not evade responsibility, they will be found not guilty of the offence.
The term “accident” within section 252(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada does not require any real physical damage before a person is obligated to stop and offer assistance. Rather, an accident will be deemed to have occurred when any form of contact is initiated between two vehicles and not only where damage or injury occurs.
Even in cases where there is no occupant in the other vehicle (such as a parked car), there is still an obligation for the driver to stop and make efforts to locate the driver or leave their personal information. A failure to stop and make such efforts could result in a conviction.
A driver only has an obligation to stop once he is aware an accident has occurred. It is a valid defence to the charge of failing to stop at the scene of accident to say that the driver was unaware he has struck another person or vehicle.
The penalties for failing to stop at the scene of an accident can rage from no time in jail to a maximum of 10 years in jail if a person is injured or killed. The maximum punishment for all other cases is five years in jail.
During the sentencing phase, the judge may also consider suspending an accused person’s driver’s license for a period of time in addition to jail or a monetary fine. In all cases, a judge will assess the specific facts of the allegation that is before them and the history of the person being sentenced.
It is always possible to appeal a conviction or sentence for any charge including failing to stop. To read more about the criminal appeal process read: Appealing a criminal conviction or sentence. In some instances, it is also possible to suspend the driving prohibition in order to get back a drivers license pending the outcome of one’s appeal.
If you, or someone you know has been charged with failing to remain at the scene of an accident under section 252 of the Criminal Code of Canada, you should speak with a criminal lawyer to discuss the available defences to this charge. Daniel Brown can be reached at (416) 297-7200 for a consultation.