Did you get in an accident? Did you drive away? What should you do? What if you were involved in a hit and run or a failure to stop at an accident and the police arrested you and charged you?
I am Brandon Fulgham with the Fulgham Law Firm. Thanks for joining us. Today I want to go into detail about, and this has happened to people, and they do not know what to do, you get in an accident, maybe it was not even your fault, and you begin to panic. You do not see the other person when you look around and it does not look like they may stop so you just keep driving on. Now all of a sudden what are you supposed to do because there is a warrant for your arrest?
Is the detective going to be reaching out to you? What’s your next step? By the way, if you wait around to the end of this video, I will also give you a free eBook “what to do if you have been charged with a crime in Texas.” All right now, first of all, if you were in an auto accident, the first thing you should do is not drive away. I know if you are watching this video maybe that’s kind of a moot point at this stage, but if you are ever in an accident never drive away. Stop. Pull over. In fact, it is the law you are supposed to stop, pull over and wait to see whether someone is injured or not. Do not drive away from the scene because here’s what will happen if you do drive away from the scene – here’s what’s likely to take place – if you end up having somebody seriously hurt in Texas you could end up being charged with a hit and run, which is a felony offense. A Hit and Run crime is serious because not only will you be arrested and looking at possible prison time of up to 10 years, but you could be looking at fines up to ten thousand dollars. Even if you receive probation for the crime, you could be talking about jail time as a condition of that probation.
If you are arrested for leaving the scene of an accident and no one is hurt, and it is just damage to the vehicle you are still talking about an arrestable offense of a failure to stop at an accident. It is important that you do not leave the scene of the accident. What if you did leave the scene of the accident? What if it’s too late? If you do leave the scene, here is what is likely to happen.
Let’s say you’re out there and you’re not sure what’s going to happen after you fled the scene of an accident? Well one of two things will take place. Number one, particularly in Texas, you will likely get a letter from a police agency stating your vehicle or your license plate was identified as having been involved in an accident for which you did not stop. Now it is just a form letter that they send out. It is really important to understand that if you receive this letter, there is a particularly good chance they do not know who was driving the car at that time. It does not mean they are not going to follow up with you and it does not mean they may not have evidence against you but at this point your receiving that letter is enough information for you to know that you are now targeted. They know who you are and that someone was driving a vehicle related to your license plate that was involved in an accident. There might have been cameras that were out there at that time that captured the license plate number. Now remember the state of Texas must prove you were operating that vehicle in order to bring probable cause against you to arrest you. Many times, what will happen is number one you will either get a letter or number two you are going to get a call specifically from a detective seeking answers about your involvement.
Now the question becomes this – what do you do? If you get a letter, number one you should call a criminal attorney to have the attorney look into that issue for you. Why? Well, if you ignore the letter there is a chance that there could still end up being a warrant going out for your arrest and you do not want that to be hanging over your head. At the same time, if you call in on your own to check in on that what do you think’s going to happen? They are going to transfer you to a detective who is going to start questioning you and you are putting yourself at risk the moment you start to open your mouth and talk to that detective.
Now what if you don’t get a letter but instead you get a call? If that detective is calling and asking for you, guess what that means? They already have a fairly good idea you were operating that vehicle whether it be through a witness, whether it be through video or some other means. Now understand why that detective is calling you. They are not calling you to be nice. They are not calling you to just go over the facts. They are calling you with one primary objective in mind and that is in order to gather evidence from you or any information from you in order to sweeten their file so that they can obtain a warrant for your arrest.
All the police need is probable cause to be able to get a warrant for either that misdemeanor or felony offense depending upon the facts of the case. I want you to be aware of that. The alternative you have is that you do not want to ignore the detective. You certainly do not want to interact with that detective because everything you say can and will be used against you. Alternative number three is to hire an attorney. By hiring a criminal attorney to get involved in this investigative stage the detective now knows you have exercised your sixth amendment right to counsel and you have also exercised your fifth amendment right not to have to speak to him anymore and to get involved in a discussion because your attorney can do the talking for you.
Remember your attorney speaking to the police is hearsay and cannot be used against you. By hiring a criminal defense attorney to talk for you, you are protected. There is a firewall between you and the state whereby they cannot take or twist or turn any information that you provide in a negative way against you.
What if you find out you already have a warrant though? What if a detective calls you and says, “listen friend we already know you did it and I already have a warrant for your arrest. You need to go ahead and speak to me.” First of all, do not speak to them. If you meet with them, all they are going to do is arrest you after they interview you. What are your options if you already find out that you have a warrant for your arrest? Well, the first thing you can do is to turn yourself in on your own. The problem with that is you do not know what the bond amount is. If you turn yourself in without a criminal lawyer, you are walking in cold turkey, and you have no idea who you need to set up the bonding services with.
You want to make sure you have a bondsman set up. Is there any assurance of what is going to happen when you get out? Will you have onerous bond conditions that will prohibit you from driving or other restrictive conditions? Remember, if you turn yourself in on your own you have no idea what your bond conditions are going to be, and you do not have any real recourse to modify those bond conditions if you are treated unfairly as part of your release process.
If you hire a criminal attorney here is what can happen. In this process, our law office with experienced criminal defense attorneys will reach out to that detective. We will gather the warrant number, the recommended bond amount, and we will walk you through step by step to help you realize what to do next.
There’s a certain place you need to turn yourself in particularly in Tarrant County and other counties are very similar to that in Texas but you need to turn yourself into the right jail so that you’re not in there very long. We help schedule a good time frame to turn yourself in and then it may even be possible that our office can actually help you with that bonding process at no additional cost to you. We will then work to make sure your bond conditions are fair. You do not want to be stuck and then get out and not even be able to go back and do certain things under unfair bond conditions. We are able to file motions and help in the modification of those bond conditions.
As you can see, being involved in a situation like this and getting a letter or getting a phone call from a detective is serious business. Do not just assume all that is going to go away. In fact, you should assume the opposite of that. Hire an attorney to get involved as soon as you can. Listen I want to thank you for joining us here today. I hope this was some help to you. If so, subscribe to our YouTube channel like this video and I also promised you a free eBook about what to do if you have been charged with a crime in Texas. Thanks for joining us here today. We will see you next time in our next video series.