An apparent hit-and-run accident in Pennsylvania killed a Vietnam veteran right before Veteran's Day. While the media is making much of the man's prior military record, the law in Pennsylvania – unlike in some other states – does not protect certain classes of people from criminal traffic violations like hit-and-run accidents by enhancing the penalties for those accused of committing the offense.
Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento explains.
Veteran Killed in Hit-and-Run Crash Outside Philadelphia
The crash happened in Norristown, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia 20 miles northwest of downtown, on November 10, 2019, a day before Veteran's Day. A 67-year-old Vietnam veteran was getting out of his car in the early evening when a passing car hit him.
The car kept going after the crash.
The victim of the accident was brought to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Some Traffic Laws Protect Certain Victims
Some of the traffic laws in Pennsylvania single out particular groups of people and take steps to protect them from harm. For example, 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3365(c.1) protects road construction workers from speeding drivers by enhancing the penalties that drivers can face if they speed through an active work zone.
Pennsylvania's Hit-and-Run Laws Do Not
When it comes to hit-and-runs, though, Pennsylvania's laws do not note who the victim was when determining a penalty for a conviction. Whether the victim was a child or an adult, a veteran or a police officer, the penalties are the same. 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3742 applies to all hit-and-run cases that cause death or an injury. The penalties depend on the extent of the injuries, rather than who the victim was:
- Fatal hit-and-run accidents are second-degree felonies that carry a minimum of 3 years in jail and a fine of $2,500
- Hit-and-run accidents that cause serious injuries are third-degree felonies that carry a minimum of 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000
- Hit-and-run crashes that lead to non-serious injuries are first degree misdemeanors
75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3743 covers hit-and-run accidents that do not hurt anyone, and only damage property. These are third-degree misdemeanors that carry up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Crashes In Other States Can Carry Heightened Penalties for Certain Groups of Victims
There are some states out there that put higher penalties on people who cause crashes that hurt certain groups of people. For example, in Texas, it's usually a third-degree felony for a driver to cause a crash that seriously hurts someone while driving under the influence (DUI). However, it becomes a felony of the first degree – which can carry a life sentence in jail – if the victim was a cop.
Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento Serves the Accused in Philadelphia
As we'll detail in our next post, traffic laws that enhance penalties for drivers who hurt certain types of people can be incredibly unfair.