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Is a Car Accident Considered a Crime Scene?

Car accidents are an unfortunate fact of life, with over 4.7 million US passenger vehicles involved in one in 2020. In San Diego alone, there were around 12,838 car crashes in 2022. What’s more—road traffic accidents are a leading cause of death among people under 55. While most accidents are just that – accidents – sometimes the circumstances surrounding a collision mean it could potentially be considered a crime scene. This is when you may need to consult a reputable defense attorney to protect your rights. Let’s look at when a car accident might be considered a crime scene.


Hit and Run

If the at-fault driver flees the scene without providing identification or aid to anyone injured, it constitutes a hit and run. Over 680,000 hit and runs occur annually in the US. In California, hit and run is prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. The police will carry out an investigation to identify the hit and run driver.


Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in all 50 states. If the police have probable cause to believe an impaired driver caused an accident, they can investigate it as a DUI crime scene. The driver may face criminal charges if they are found to be over the legal limit or under the influence of an intoxicating substance. This can lead to fines, license suspension, or even jail.

Vehicular Manslaughter

When someone is killed due to the negligence or recklessness of a driver, it may be deemed vehicular manslaughter. Police will investigate to see if the driver should face criminal charges for the death. In California, vehicular manslaughter can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony.

Reckless Driving

If a driver was operating their vehicle in a criminally reckless manner – like speeding over 100 mph – and caused a serious accident, they could face reckless driving charges. The police may treat the accident scene as a crime scene to determine if criminal reckless driving charges are warranted.

Consulting a Defense Attorney

If you are being investigated for a potential crime or facing criminal charges stemming from a car accident, it is advisable to hire a San Diego criminal defense attorney immediately. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can guide you through the process and work to protect your rights at every stage, from the police investigation to criminal trial. They may be able to get charges reduced or even dismissed. Don’t wait to seek legal counsel if your car accident may become a criminal matter.

While the vast majority of car crashes are just accidents, there are circumstances where police may conduct a criminal investigation at the scene of a collision. Hit and runs, DUIs, vehicular manslaughter, and reckless driving accidents can all potentially lead to criminal charges. If you find yourself being investigated for a crime or facing charges related to a car accident, it is critical to engage an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.

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