LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Jonathan Andrew Paul

Leaving the Scene of an Accident Michigan - Reckless Careless Driving Attorney

RECKLESS DRIVING/LEAVING THE SCENE OF ACCIDENT

Name: Michael Age: 31 years old Prior traffic tickets/no misdemeanors Profession: Auto Industry

Michael reaches out to me about several charges on a traffic ticket. He starts by telling me he’s charged with Reckless Driving; I ask him to send me the ticket, because most of the time, a ticket has multiple charges listed, and a few issues to discuss.

When I receive the ticket, I see a handful of charges; Reckless Driving, Careless Driving and Leaving the Scene of an Accident.

As I am reviewing the tickets, I ask Michael to give me more information about himself, including past criminal/driving history, background on his family, career, and a summary of what happened. Michael tells me that he has no criminal history, but a history of speeding tickets, and he works in the auto industry at Ford Motor Company as an engineer. He is single, ambitious and is required to have a driver’s license for his position. He was also driving a company car at the time of the incident.

In his summary of the events, Michael tells me that while driving about a mile from his home, he was cut off by another driver. He sped up and chased the other car down; during this chase, both cars ended up colliding and on the side of the road. Both drivers got into a verbal argument, and Michael drove off and went home with the intention of calling the police.

When a client tells me what happened, I understand that it’s the best version of their case; meaning, they may leave out some facts, twist some facts for it to sound better. That’s ok; it’s very natural to have a fight or flight, and sometimes we say what we wish we did, rather than what we did.

I have to strike a balance with a new potential client at this point. I want to be supportive of their version of the story, but it does me no good if I simply say OK, and we go with their version of the story. I find it helpful to ask a series of follow-up questions, because I view every single potential case from both the defense side, and the prosecution, and how a judge would view the case.

Remember, the prosecutor and judge are just going to read the police report; they were not present, and my client does not get to file a defendant’s report to read.

Based on what Michael told me, he acknowledges he was out on the road, had some sort of traffic incident with another car, and admits he left, but with the intention of calling the police.

First follow up question would be, did you call the police? Michael says no with a few reasons why he did not; the only key fact there is he didn’t call the police; even if he did, he still left the scene of an accident. He tells me he was scared of the other driver, that’s why he left; this makes more sense, and is more relevant.

So we have Michael’s version, but we won’t know the full picture until we see the police report, accident report, and any other evidence. For now, I do my best to educate Michael on the charges.

Some people view a traffic ticket as less serious than “criminal charges”; unfortunately, many traffic tickets are misdemeanors, and they are more serious.

Not only are they potential criminal charges on your record, but they also go on your driving record, give you points, could impact your driver’s license, and there are NO dismissal programs for traffic tickets. Under the current law, there is also no way to expunge a traffic offense. The Reckless driving is misdemeanor, which carries 6 points, and a 90-day hard suspension of your driver’s license. This charge has more serious driver’s license consequences than drunk driving, the same or more points, and is a misdemeanor. The Careless Driving is a civil infraction, and 3 potential points on your license. The Leaving the Scene depending on how it is categorized is either 0 or 6 points, and a criminal misdemeanor. When confronted with multiple charges, I think back to my day’s as a prosecutor; we always charged as much as we could to create leverage to make deals. If we only charged one thing, we lose the ability to work something out. Also relevant to this case is Michael’s past driving record for speeding. While by no means a serious flaw in Michael’s life, it’s strong evidence in the prosecutor’s eyes that Michael speeds, and may not be the most cautious driver. For every speeding ticket you receive, you probably get away with it another 99 times.

We have to overcome the “asshole factor” with the prosecutor. Although Michael is a hard-working professional, the prosecutor never gets to meet him, and will only judge him on his speeding record, and this case. A prosecutor creates an image in their head based on their own driving interactions, and people who have upset them, or they’ve witnessed driving in dangerous ways around them.

Once Michael and I begin working together, we track down the police report, which is completely one sided, because the other driver reported the whole incident to the police and failed to mention their role if any in the incident. Michael is labeled a dangerous driver who chased down the “victim” and was verbally abusive and put the other driver’s well-being in grave danger.

Michael certainly has the option of going to trial on all three charges, but there is great risk there. There is no independent witness who can tell the “real story”; it’s the guy who was responsible and called the cops vs the guy who allegedly drove off. In order to have any chance of contesting the case, Michael would likely need to testify, which opens up potential additional liability for testifying under oath. It also opens up the door with the judge for potential harsher sentencing.

Simply put, if you work out a deal on most traffic offense, a judge is barely going to notice the case, assess some fines and may not even consider probation, and certainly not jail. You make a judge sit through a trial, hear testimony, and all “dirty details”, and you’re convicted, you then get on the judge’s radar big-time. I advise Michael that we’re going to keep all out options open, but let’s explore best case scenarios. We make it a goal to work toward an outcome, which doesn’t lead to any criminal record, no loss of driver’s license, and no probation. If we can walk away from this case with our driver’s license, no criminal record, and no court supervision, we agree that we likely would accept that outcome.

Unfortunately, we still need to overcome the one-sided facts, and my clients driving record. Here is where we get proactive and change the perception of the case. I ask Michael to keep an open mind, and even if he disagrees with some of the police report and statements of the other driver, we need to acknowledge that the prosecutor is going to consider that to be the truth in working out any deal. We need to isolate what happened, and work on presented a more in-depth, accurate and fair background on his past, present, and future.

I ask Michael for his resume, so I clearly understand his education and professional success. I also ask him to meet with a counselor one-time to talk about what happened. I understand from my experience, that my client is going to be more open with a professional therapist who is trained to ask the right questions.

Along with this counseling session, I will request a report from the counselor to better help me understand what happened. It turns out that Michael had a bad day at work, and the other driver triggered him. He is remorseful for acting in that way and admits that he could have handled it better.

This is very helpful, because Michael is now in a better mindset, and understand what happened. It helps me provide some context to the prosecutor that Michael isn’t a dangerous/irresponsible person, but he is currently dealing with stress at work, and is learning alternative methods to work on these issues such as mediation, exercise, and has breathing techniques to move past these feelings. It’s these little angles and insights that help move a prosecutor off their initial feelings on a case.

The fact my client cared enough to meet with a counselor, and I have this official report created on the session. We also back this up with a driver improvement course approved by the State of Michigan, and a day of community of service within the court’s jurisdiction.

Michael has demonstrated how serious he is taking this isolated poor choice in his life. He realizes that he should have handled it better; he is humbled by what happened and is ready to resolve the case with our goals in mind.

Because of Michael’s proactive efforts, the prosecutor agrees to an outcome of no criminal record and no suspension of his driver’s license. I remind Michael not to blame the other driver before the court, accept the reduced outcome and be positive. Because Michael follows my lead, the judge assesses a fine, and warns my client to drive safe, and not come back to his court. Agreed!

Additional resources provided by the author

Free Q&A with lawyers in your area

Can’t find what you’re looking for?


Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer