Every driver knows they should never flee the scene of an accident, but the recent case of a Hattiesburg man who did just that should serve as an important reminder of how serious an offense leaving the scene of an accident can be. In September of 2011, in the early morning hours, Shelby Johnson, a 46 year old man from Hattiesburg, struck a pedestrian with his vehicle while driving during a rainstorm. He left the scene of the accident. Several hours later, he returned to the spot and contacted law enforcement officers.
Johnson’s victim had been severely injured but had already been transported to the hospital by ambulance. A Forrest County grand jury indicted Johnson for leaving the scene of an accident, and Johnson pled guilty. Judge Bob Helfrich, a Forrest County Circuit Court Judge, sentenced Johnson to a total of ten years imprisonment, with eight years suspended and three years of post-release supervision. Johnson will additionally pay $1,600 in fines.
Attorney General Jim Hood stated that while this is not an example of a typical case they choose to prosecute, he hoped it would serve as an important reminder that leaving the scene of the accident is a felony and can equate to jail time.
While the case of Shelby Johnson is unique, it is far from a lone occurrence. In fact, in 2012 in Hattiesburg, a woman was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Victoria J. Lumpert, a 58 year old woman, struck a pedestrian in 2010. She fled the scene of the accident. The victim, 47 year old Lawrence John Brun, died several months later from his injuries. Lumpert was caught and indicted with one count of felony leaving the scene of an accident. She was later sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The tales of Johnson and Lumpert are tragic, for both the victims involved and the defendants who will now spend years of their lives behind prison bars. The following is a list of some points you can take away from these cases concerning fleeing the scene of an accident:
- It is hard to predict your behavior following an accident—no one can predict how they will feel or act following a serious accident. Most of us likely believe we will act in accordance with the law, but the reality is no one really sets out to flee the scene of an accident. Rather, people like Johnson and Lumpert react out of panic and fear. This is why it is so important that you are well aware of the consequences of leaving an accident site, because in those crucial moments following the crash this will help you to make the right decision and stay at the scene until police arrive.
- Fleeing the scene will harm your health—when you are in an accident that may have been your fault, by leaving the scene of an accident you demolish any chance at a defense. Your act of flight acknowledges your sole responsibility for the accident.
- Fleeing the scene can destroy your life—leaving an accident is a crime and you can face serious prison time, like Johnson and Lumpert. What could have been a simple fine or insurance claim against you can turn into years wasted behind bars. The right choice is clear—remain at the scene of any accident until law enforcement officers arrive.
The Giddens Law Firm wants all drivers to act responsibly in the event of a crash. If you were injured in an automobile accident, the zealous attorney advocates at the Giddens Law Firm can help. Call us today (601) 355-2022 to schedule a free and completely confidential consultation.