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Hit & Run, § 346.67(1) – Elements – “Accident” Occurring on “Highway,” and Relation to Private Property

State v. Dawn R. Dartez, 2007 WI App 126, PFR filed 4/23
For Dartez: Bill Ginsberg

Issue: Whether hit-and-run liability attaches to an accident occurring on private property.

Holding:

¶13      In this case, as already noted, we are concerned with the meaning of “accident” in Wis. Stat. § 346.67(1) in conjunction with the requirement of “upon the highway” in Wis. Stat. § 346.02(1). We agree with Dartez that a common meaning of “accident” when used in connection with a motor vehicle is a collision with another object or person. However, it does not necessarily follow, as Dartez contends, that events immediately preceding the collision and resulting in the collision are not encompassed within the meaning of “accident.” Moreover, limiting “accident” to “collision” in this context would exclude a situation in which no collision occurs but someone is injured on a highway as the result of the operation of a motor vehicle on a highway—such as when a passenger falls out of a moving vehicle. This would come within the broad definition of “accident” we adopted in Harmon, and we can see no rationale for excluding such a situation from § 346.67(1) simply because no “collision” occurred.…

¶20      We conclude that when, as here, a vehicle is involved in a collision, the term “accident” in Wis. Stat. § 346.67(1) includes, at a minimum, an operator’s loss of control of the vehicle that results in the collision. Because Dartez’s loss of control of the vehicle occurred on the highway, even though the resulting collision occurred off the highway, we conclude she was “involved in an accident” “upon a highway” within the meaning of § 346.67(1) and Wis. Stat. § 346.02(1). Accordingly, we reverse the circuit court’s order dismissing this charge and remand for further proceedings.

 

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