In 2017, a young man was struck by a pickup truck and killed while riding his bicycle in Georgetown. The driver was sentenced to two years in prison and 10 months’ probation after pleading to manslaughter and accident involving death. However, due to a peculiarity in Texas law, he was released to mandatory supervision before ever serving any time of his sentence, causing the victim’s family serious pain and mental anguish. Now, a bill is before the Texas legislature which would close that loophole. If you are involved in a hit-and-run, it would significantly alter your prospects at sentencing.
Hit-And-Run Is a Crime
In Texas, leaving the scene of an accident is a crime, punishable by anywhere between a $500 fine and a 10-year prison sentence, depending on the nature of the accident. Leaving the scene of an accident where someone was killed or seriously injured is a third-degree felony. The driver in the above case did leave the scene of the accident, and he could have been found guilty of leaving the scene had he not negotiated a plea deal. The penalties are lesser if your accident only involves minor injury or property damage, but serious injury or death is taken very seriously.
However, even with the sentencing guidelines, Texas law has a loophole depending on how long a person has spent in detention. It is possible for someone who has spent a significant amount of time in pretrial detention to be released into mandatory supervision without ever actually spending any time in prison once they are sentenced. This occurred in this, given the defendant spent almost 400 days in detention before his trial and sentencing. However, the victim’s family was never notified.
What Does This Mean for Me?
The proposed law, HB 2772, would require that anyone sentenced to prison (not county jail, but prison) would go there for at least 45 days instead of going straight to mandatory supervision. Prison and jail are very different, and proponents of the bill argue that not being required to serve any part of the prison sentence is somehow ‘skipping out’ on serving their debt. This means that if you are the victim of a hit-and-run, the person who hit you would be required to go to prison if they are convicted of any crime surrounding it, rather than going directly to mandatory supervision.
This does not, however, affect your ability to bring a civil lawsuit against the driver for negligence or some other non-criminal cause of action. If you wish to try and bring a civil suit to recover for your medical bills or other expenses, like lost wages, you can do so, though it may wind up being delayed until after the conclusion of the criminal trial. The Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy (being tried twice for the same crime) does not apply when one case is criminal and the other is civil, however, both cases cannot happen at the same time.
Call an Experienced Hit-And-Run Lawyer
Hit and run accidents can be life-changing, and if someone leaves the scene of yours, they should be held accountable. While it remains to be seen what will occur with HB 2772, you still have the right to try and seek recompense for the harm you have suffered. A skilled New Braunfels hit and run accident attorney at the Bettersworth Law Firm can sit down with you and try to assist you with your case. Contact our office today at 888-392-0039 to schedule a free consultation.