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Duty Upon Striking A Fixed Object in Georgia
In Georgia, if you are driving and hit a stationary object, it is a crime to just drive away. You must take steps to avoid criminal liability. The relevant law here is O.C.G.A. § 40-6-272. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-272 is a reporting rule dictating what drivers should do after an accident.
The law states that a driver involved in an accident that damages a "fixture" upon or adjacent to a road must take reasonable steps to notify the owner of the property of the accident.
The driver must provide to the owner:
- Their name,
- Their address,
- The registration number of the driver's vehicle,
- If requested, their driver's license.
What is a "fixture" or a "fixed object?"
A fixed object is anything permanently placed upon or adjacent to a road. These include, for example:
- Utility poles,
- Mailboxes, and
- Traffic barriers.
Other vehicles are not fixed objects, even if they are parked. It is still a criminal offense to hit a parked car and leave, but it is covered in a different criminal statute.
What are "reasonable steps?"
The law says that drivers involved in an accident with a fixed object must take "reasonable steps" to notify the owner of the fixed object of the accident. But what is considered a "reasonable step?"
"Reasonable steps" are not explicitly defined in this particular law. However, in Georgia, "reasonableness" is usually determined by the trier of fact. The trier of fact can be the judge or the jury, depending on whether the trial is a bench trial or a jury trial. Based on all the circumstances in a particular case, they must determine whether a person acted reasonably. In a "Striking a Fixed Object" case, they would have to decide whether the steps the defendant took to notify the property owner were "reasonable" under the circumstances.
If the defendant didn't try to determine who owned the property but instead just drove away, that would probably not be considered reasonable. If, however, they left a note in the mailbox with all of the required information, that may be sufficient (though, even this depends on the circumstances).
Criminal Penalties for a Striking a Fixed Object Conviction
Violating the Duty upon Striking a Fixture is a misdemeanor offense. As a misdemeanor, it carries a maximum penalty of:
- A fine of up to $1,000, and
- A jail sentence of 12 months.
Judges can also order you to complete community service, take a defensive driving course, or pay restitution. Your actual sentence will depend on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of your case. But having a Georgia Traffic Defense Attorney on your side can dramatically increase your chances of a favorable outcome.
License Penalties for Striking a Fixed Object in Georgia
For most drivers, violation of the "Duty Upon Striking Fixture" law is a 3-point offense. If you are convicted of this offense in one of Georgia's criminal courts, that court will transmit a record of the conviction to the Department of Driver Services (DDS). DDS then assesses points to your license. Depending on your age and driving history, accumulating points can seriously affect your ability to keep driving. Read more about the consequences of license points here.
This offense is far more problematic for drivers holding a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). Under Georgia law, DDS considers Failure to Report Striking a Fixed Object a "Major Traffic Violation." Conviction of a major traffic violation, including the Duty Upon Striking a Fixed Object law, will result in disqualification of your CDL. For people who rely on their CDL to make a living, disqualification can be devastating.
Why You Need a Lawyer
If you have been cited for Duty Upon Striking a Fixed Object in Georgia, you should speak to a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney today. You should never go to court alone. Doing so can be an expensive and time-consuming mistake. You deserve to know your options. Get in touch, or click here to call me now.
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