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42-4-1601. Accidents involving death or personal injuries - duties.

Statute text

(1) The driver of any vehicle directly involved in an accident resulting in injury to, serious bodily injury to, or death of any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident or as close to the scene as possible or shall immediately return to the scene of the accident. The driver shall then remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of section 42-4-1603 (1). Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.

(1.5) It shall not be an offense under this section if a driver, after fulfilling the requirements of subsection (1) of this section and of section 42-4-1603 (1), leaves the scene of the accident for the purpose of reporting the accident in accordance with the provisions of sections 42-4-1603 (2) and 42-4-1606.

(2) Any person who violates any provision of this section commits:

(a) A class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense if the accident resulted in injury to any person;

(b) A class 4 felony if the accident resulted in serious bodily injury to any person;

(c) A class 3 felony if the accident resulted in the death of any person.

(3) The department shall revoke the driver's license of the person so convicted. A revocation pursuant to this subsection (3) runs concurrently with any suspension imposed pursuant to section 42-2-127.9, if imposed as a result of the same episode of driving.

(4) As used in this section and sections 42-4-1402.5, 42-4-1603, and 42-4-1606:

(a) "Injury" means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical or mental condition.

(b) "Serious bodily injury" means injury that involves, either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time, a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, or a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third degree.


Source: L. 94: Entire title amended with relocations, p. 2399, 1, effective January 1, 1995. L. 98: (2)(b) amended, p. 1443, 32, effective July 1. L. 2000: (4)(b) amended, p. 709, 44, effective July 1. L. 2004: (1) amended and (1.5) added, p. 606, 1, effective July 1. L. 2008: (2)(c) amended, p. 850, 1, effective July 1. L. 2012: (1) and (2)(b) amended, (HB 12-1084), ch. 261, p. 1354, 1, effective August 8. L. 2017: (3) amended, (HB 17-1277), ch. 337, p. 1803, 2, effective January 1, 2018. L. 2019: IP(4) amended, (SB 19-175), ch. 331, p. 3072, 3, effective May 29.


Editor's note: This section is similar to former 42-4-1401 as it existed prior to 1994, and the former 42-4-1601 was relocated to 42-4-1801.





Annotator's note. Since 42-4-1601 is similar to 42-4-1401 as it existed prior to the 1994 amending of title 42 as enacted by SB 94-1, relevant cases construing that provision have been included with the annotations to this section.

Sentencing under this section unconstitutional. Sentencing a defendant under this section unconstitutionally denies him equal protection, because this section and 42-4-1403 set different penalties for the same conduct. People v. Mumaugh, 644 P.2d 299 (Colo. 1982) (decided prior to 1983 repeal of 42-4-1403 (3)).

The distinction, if any, between "directly involved in an accident"(this section) and "involved in an accident" ( 42-4-1403) is one without a sufficiently pragmatic difference to permit an intelligent and uniform application of the law. People v. Mumaugh, 644 P.2d 299 (Colo. 1982) (decided prior to 1983 repeal of 42-4-1403 (3)).

No violation of equal protection. This section does not violate equal protection of the laws because the conduct constituting a class 4 felony under this section (i.e., leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death) is distinguishable in type and degree from the conduct constituting a class 2 traffic offense under 42-4-1406 (i.e., failing to report an accident). People v. Rickstrew, 775 P.2d 570 (Colo. 1989).

This section and 42-4-1402 cover accidents involving death, injuries, and property damage. City of Aurora v. Mitchell, 144 Colo. 526, 357 P.2d 923 (1960).

A county court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of offenses alleged to have been committed under this section. People v. Griffith, 130 Colo. 475, 276 P.2d 559 (1954).

Infractions of section are matters of general public concern and not purely local. The investigation and apprehension of a violator of the requirements of this and 42-4-1403 is not exclusively a local matter. Infractions of these provisions are of general public concern. Moreover, these requirements do not necessarily relate to traffic control, but provide certain necessary actions on the part of the motorist involved to be taken after an accident occurs to protect the life and property of the injured. When these offenses are charged they come under the general police power of the state and do not necessarily relate to regulation of motor vehicle traffic of a "local or municipal" nature, although occurring in a municipality. People v. Graham, 107 Colo. 202, 110 P.2d 256 (1941).

Fault and extent of damages are not issues. This section and 42-4-1403 do not contemplate that in a prosecution thereunder the court shall be concerned in determining where the fault lies. Nor may it be concerned about the extent of injuries to persons or damage to property resulting from an accident made the basis of such a prosecution. Those questions are referable to a prosecution under a different statute, or to a civil action for damages. It is not the accident, as such, therefore, that constitutes the offense. Weiderspon v. People, 118 Colo. 529, 198 P.2d 301 (1948).

This section creates a strict liability offense because the plain language does not require or imply a culpable mental state, the proscribed conduct does not necessarily involve a culpable mental state, and the fact that the offense is a felony is not determinative. Due process is not violated because the offense is against the public welfare. People v. Manzo, 144 P.3d 551 (Colo. 2006).

This section and 42-4-1603 require a driver of a vehicle involved in an accident to identify himself or herself as the driver. Unless the fact is reasonably apparent from the circumstances, the driver has an affirmative duty to identify that he or she was the one driving the motor vehicle. People v. Hernandez, 250 P.3d 568 (Colo. 2010).

The unit of prosecution for leaving the scene of an accident is the number of accident scenes, not the number of injured victims at those scenes; consequently, where two people were injured at a single accident scene, defendant's conviction on two counts of leaving the scene of an accident violates the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. People v. Arzabala, 2012 COA 99, 317 P.3d 1196; People v. Medrano-Bustamante, 2013 COA 139, 412 P.3d 581, aff'd in part and rev'd in part on other grounds sub nom. Reyna-Abarca v. People, 2017 CO 15, 390 P.3d 816.

Applied in People v. Reyes, 42 Colo. App. 73, 589 P.2d 1385 (1979); Lumbardy v. People, 625 P.2d 1026 (Colo. 1981); Stewart v. United States, 716 F.2d 755 (10th Cir. 1982).