In Ohio, failure to stop after an accident is a first degree misdemeanor. An essential element of the crime is that the driver must have known she was in an accident. If the driver clips another car, a pole, a person or any other person or property and the prosecution cannot prove that she knew at the time that she had hit something or someone, there can be no hit skip conviction.
That is what happened here. A bar employee claimed that the driver clipped his knee as she was driving off. But there was no evidence that the driver knew she had hit him. In fact, the driver didn’t know she had been in an accident until she was later pulled over by police.
As a result, her his skip conviction was vacated and the charges dismissed.
Bar Employee Claims Driver Clipped His Knee in Parking Lot
The complaint alleged that after leaving a bar in the early morning hours, the defendant driver clipped the knee of a bar employee (Mr. Robinson) with her car as she was pulling out of a parking spot, and left the scene of the accident.
Robinson testified at trial that when the driver “gunned out” of the parking spot, she clipped his knee with her car and drove away. He testified that he didn’t fall and pushed off the car to get away.
When asked whether he yelled when the car hit him, he replied: “I said stop, but she has done – after I was – as many times as I told her it’s time to go, it is time to go, it is time to go, she knew, because at that point when I did walk and look at her plate and I walked back up and said it is time to go, she cut the wheel.”
The passenger testified that as the driver pulled out of the parking spot, Mr. Robinson screamed, “she just tried to hit me.” The passenger further testified that at no time did he see the driver’s car actually hit Robinson. Although Robinson was on the phone at the time of the incident, he did not say anything about being hit by a car.
The driver testified she pulled out of the parking spot quickly and left the parking lot. She said she felt no impact or otherwise on her car indicating an accident – whether from Robinson’s body or from Robinson slapping her car or putting his hands on her car. She said she had no knowledge of the accident until after she was pulled over by a local police officer.
In fact, she believed she was being pulled over for a DUI and was surprised to hear about the hit skip allegation. She was charged with failing to stop after an accident (hit skip) under the municipal code.
Ohio’s Hit Skip Statute (Failure to Stop After An Accident)
Because the accident allegedly occurred on private property (a bar parking lot), the driver was charged with “failure to stop after an accident on other than public roads or highways” (which is identical to the Ohio statute R.C. 4549.021). The statute states:
“In case of accident or collision resulting in injury or damage to persons or property upon any public or private property other than public roads or highways, due to the driving or operation thereon of any motor vehicle, the person driving or operating the motor vehicle, having knowledge of the accident or collision, shall stop, and, upon request of the person injured or damaged, or any other person, shall give that person the driver’s or operator’s name and address, and, if the driver or operator is not the owner, the name and address of the owner of that motor vehicle, together with the registered number of that motor vehicle, and, if available, exhibit the driver’s or operator’s driver’s or commercial driver’s license.”
Thus, the prosecution must prove that there was:
(1) an accident or collision,
(2) injury to persons or property,
(3) that the driver had knowledge of the accident or collision, and
(4) a failure to stop and remain at the scene.
Proving that the the driver knew she was in an accident is an essential element of the offense.
After reviewing the evidence, the appellate court found that the City prosecutor failed to prove that the driver knew she had struck Robinson when she left the bar parking lot. There was no evidence that the driver had any knowledge of the accident at the time she left the parking lot.
Rather, the testimony showed that it was not until after she was later pulled over that she learned of the accident.
One cannot be convicted of a hit skip unless they have knowledge of the accident. Because the driver here didn’t know she had been in an accident, the conviction was vacated and dismissed.
The full text of the case can be found here: Fairfield v. Eubanks, 2014-Ohio-3781.