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Can You Go to Jail for Scratching a Car?


While accidentally scratching a car is one thing, scratching a car and fleeing the scene is a whole different thing. Is such an intentional act punishable and can you go to jail for scratching a car?

Scratching a car and fleeing the scene is not only morally wrong it can constitute a felony in most states in America. However, the possibility of going to jail depends on the laws of each state, the nature of the act, and the value of the car involved.

It’s understandable that accidentally scratching a parked car sometimes has little to do with your driving skills. However, how you handle the situation will determine if the act will constitute an offense.

Should you ever find yourself in such a situation, this article explains what you should do if you accidentally scratch a car.

What You Should If You Scratch Someone’s Car

When you scratch someone’s car, how you handle the situation is very important if you’re to avoid legal issues and police trouble. You can follow the steps below to keep control of the situation.


Stay Calm and Don’t Panic

When you accidentally scratch someone’s car, it’s normal if you feel panic creeping in. However, you need to stay calm and maintain composure.

Sometimes, the value of the car involved can increase your exasperation and this is quite understandable. After all, most people will hit the panic button should they scratch a luxury car.

Calming your nerves is very important because it will help reign in impulses to flee to the scene.

Don’t Flee The Scene

When you accidentally scratch a car, fleeing the scene instantly makes it difficult for the owner, the police, your insurance company, and even the court to believe it was an accident.

Fleeing the scene immediately turns the situation into a misdemeanor or felony which can attract jail time, fine, or license points depending on the state.

Instead of fleeing the scene, make an effort to find the owner of the car and inform them of the situation. Look around the surroundings and ask around for the owner of the car.

Basically, when you accidentally scratch a car, you have to stay in the scene because it’s mandated by the law. Doing otherwise will constitute an offense.

If You Can’t Find The Owner, Leave A Note

If you have made an attempt to find the owner of the car and you can’t, the next thing you can do is to leave a note containing your information.

The note should contain your name, address, contact information, and a short explanation of what happened. You can pin the note under the car wiper for the driver to see it.

It’s very important that you leave a note because it’s what separates an accident from a hit and run.

Report To The Police

Some states require that you report any accident to the police if you can’t exchange information with the owner of the car. In New York, the law requires that you notify the police if you’re unable to exchange information.

In California and Florida, the law requires you to report any accident to the police and also provide your information. Failure to do this when stipulated by the law will place you in breach of the law.

Take Photos And Video

Thanks to technology, you can take videos and pictures of the car after the accident. You should also take pictures and videos of the damages to your car so your insurance can know the extent of the damages.

The videos and pictures will provide proof of the extent of the damage and also evidence that you left a note as required by the law.

Talk To Those Around

After the accident, talk to those you can find around. Ask from shops in the areas or occupants of houses close to the scene for the owner of the car. This will show that you didn’t flee the scene after the accident.

Call Your Insurance Company

If you have an insurance policy that covers such a situation, call your insurance company immediately.

It’s important to call your insurance company as soon as possible to inform them of the accident. The insurance company will be able to handle the situation by taking the necessary steps.

What To Do If You Flee The Accident Scene

To be honest, not everyone can stay calm and remain at the accident scene after scratching a car.

Leaving the scene of an accident without informing the owner of the car or leaving a note constitutes an offense. Fortunately, all is not lost and there are ways to fix the situation.

Return To The Scene

If it hasn’t been long since you fled the scene, you should return to the scene and try to find the owner or leave a note. This will quickly remedy the situation and help you avoid breaking the law.

Speak With An Attorney

If you can’t find the car at the scene, the next option is to speak to a car accident attorney. A lawyer will advise you on the best way to handle the situation and even help you contact the police.

Report To The Police

The second and bold option is to contact the police and report the situation. You can explain the situation and inform the police it was an accident.

female reports to the police

By personally contacting the police, it greatly reduces the likelihood of prosecution for hit and run. The police can help you get in touch with the owner of the car, so you can resolve the situation.


While scratching a car might be a simple driving hazard, how you handle the situation will determine if you’re right or wrong.

No one should go to jail for accidentally scratching a car. However, you must follow the stipulations of the law to the latter and do right by the owner of the car.

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