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Criminal Lawyer in case of Hit and Run according to Section 142 StGB

Unauthorised departure from the scene of an accident, or hit-and-run, is not to be underestimated. It is a criminal offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to three years. In addition, a driving ban can be imposed. Nevertheless, several hundred thousand hit-and-runs occur in Germany every year.

In the following, you will receive an overview of when you fulfil the criminal offence of leaving the scene of an accident without permission. If you find yourself in a relevant situation under criminal law, please get in touch with the criminal lawyers of the law firm Schlun & Elseven at any time.

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Obligation to tolerate Ascertainment and “Duty to Wait”

A person involved in an accident is liable to prosecution if they leave the scene of the accident before they have made it possible to establish their person, vehicle and the nature of their involvement by their presence and by stating that they are involved in the accident (Section 142, paragraph 1, no. 1 StBG). The purpose is to enable such ascertainment necessary to secure or avert any civil compensation claims. This obligation to tolerate findings exists if persons willing to make a determination are present. These can either be other persons involved in the accident and injured parties or third parties acting in their favour, particularly the police.

If no persons are presently prepared to make a determination, there is a duty to wait. In this case, a person involved in the accident is liable to the prosecution if they leave the scene of the accident before having waited a reasonable time without anyone being ready to make the determination (Section 142 (1) no. 2 StGB). The duration of the reasonable waiting time depends on the circumstances of the individual case. In particular, the type and severity of the accident, the time as well as the location of the accident, and the traffic density are decisive. In principle, the obligation to wait exists only as long as it can be expected that persons ready to make a determination will arrive as soon as possible. However, even if the damage is only minor, you should wait at least ten minutes.

Subsequent Possibility of Determination

Suppose you leave the scene of an accident after the waiting period has expired. In that case, you are still liable to prosecution if you do not enable the determination to be made immediately afterwards (Section 142, paragraph 2 StGB). Immediately means that action must be taken without culpable hesitation. Therefore, it may often be necessary to go directly from the scene of the accident to a police station. Here too, however, the circumstances of the individual case are decisive.

The obligation to make a subsequent determination also applies in the case of justified or excused removal from the scene of the accident. A person is justifiably removed from the scene of an accident if there is a justifiable reason for doing so. This could be the consent of the injured party or a defensible state of emergency according to § 34 StGB, e.g., due to the care of an injured person within the scope of the general duty to help (§ 323c para. 1 StGB). An excused departure from the scene of an accident can be assumed if the reason for excusing or excluding guilt intervene.

Whether an unauthorised departure from the scene of an accident exists depends on the circumstances of the individual case and often requires careful legal examination. Our lawyers for criminal law will be happy to assist you with this.

Who is affected by the Obligations under Section 142 StGB?

The offence of Section 142 of the German Criminal Code imposes obligations on persons involved in a road traffic accident. This includes any sudden event that is causally related to the typical dangers of road traffic and that causes more than trivial personal injury or damage to property. Only public road traffic is covered. The value limit for the assessment of insignificance is approximately 25 to 50 Euros (OLG Jena, decision of 7.7.2005, ref.: 1 Ss 161/04 and OLG Nuremberg, decision of 24.1.2007, ref.: 2 St OLG Ss 300/06).

For the purpose of Section 142 of the German Criminal Code, the person involved in the accident is not only the apparent person who caused the accident but anyone whose conduct may have contributed to causing the accident according to the circumstances (Section 142 (5) StGB). Who was involved in the accident can often only be made possible by the determination at the scene of the accident. A passenger can also be involved in an accident if, for example, they grab the driver´s steering wheel.

It should be noted that the offence of unauthorised departure from the scene of an accident is only committed by someone who acts intentionally. A person who, for example, overlooked the accident at all is not liable to prosecution.

Consequences under Criminal Law and Insurance Law

Unauthorised departure from the scene of an accident is punishable by up to three years imprisonment or a fine. If a person suffers an accidental shock, this can be considered a mitigating factor. In addition, the court will mitigate the penalty or may even waive it if the person involved in the accident voluntarily provides identification within twenty-four hours of the accident (Section 142 (4) StGB). However, this only applies to accidents outside of moving traffic, i.e., essentially parking accidents, which exclusively result in non-significant property damage. There is no explicit value limit for this. It is estimated at approximately 1,3000 Euros (cf. OLG Hamm, decision of 30.9.2010, ref.: III 3 RVs 72/10).

In addition, leaving the scene of an accident without permission may result in the driving license revocation (Section 69, paragraphs 1 and 2, no. 3 of the Criminal Code). This applies in particular to the person who knew or could have known that a person had been killed or significantly injured in the accident or that significant damage had been caused to property belonging to others. In addition, the reinstatement of the driving licence may be made dependent on a medical-psychological examination (MPU). A driving ban may be imposed if the driving license is not revoked (§44 StGB).

In addition to the consequences under criminal law, an unauthorised departure from the scene of an accident also regularly has effects under insurance law. For example, the vehicle insurer may be completely exempt from paying benefits, or the benefits may be reduced (§ 28 para. 2 VVG). In the case of moto vehicle liability insurance, however, it must be taken into account that the insurer´s exemption from paying benefits to the policyholder is limited to 2,5000 Euros or 5,000 Euros (§ 6 KfzPflVV).

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