Police Investigating Queens Hit and Run: Why You Should Never Flee the Scene
Yesterday, we wrote about the case of Joseph Caleca, who allegedly hit and dragged Sikh man Sandeep Singh with his truck in a racially-fueled attack. The case has received attention primarily as a hate crime, but in addition to the more attention-grabbing charges of murder and assault, Caleca is also being charged with leaving the scene of an accident — a violation typically associated with hit and runs. While Singh survived his ordeal, many people who are hit by cars are not so lucky. 32-year-old Karoll Grzegorczyk of Flushing, Queens is unfortunately among them. Grzegorczyk passed away at Elmhurst General Hospital earlier this week, but police continue to investigate the hit and run which led to his death. What should you do if you ever accidentally hit someone with your car? What are the penalties for vehicular assault and homicide in New York?
Police Suspect Hit and Run Claimed Father-to-Be’s Life
When police discovered the body of 32-year-old Karoll Grzegorczyk on Monday, it was already too late. He was rushed to Elmhurst General Hospital, but was declared dead, a victim of massive physical trauma. While the NYPD investigation into the accident is far from complete, police have managed to piece together a few bits of information.
Grzegorczyk had been standing between two parked cars at around 3:00 in the morning, waiting to cross at the intersection of Fresh Pond Road and Eliot Ave in the Ridgeway section of Queens. But before he could safely reach the other side, he was struck down by a southbound vehicle described as a dark sedan. Instead of stopping, the driver of the vehicle — whose identity remains unknown to law enforcement — continued heading south, leaving a badly injured Grzegorczyk behind on the roadside.
Later in the day, Grzegorcyzk’s pregnant widow was seen leaving tokens of remembrance for her husband at the intersection where he was killed.
For the time being, police continue to examine surveillance footage in hopes of identifying a potential suspect.
If You Accidentally Hit Someone, Do Not Leave the Scene
If the driver is apprehended, he or she will be facing very serious criminal charges.
In terms of severity, the charge on the lowest rung of the ladder would likely be “leaving the scene of an incident without reporting,” which is addressed by Article 22 (S 600) of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Code. This charge is not actually a crime, but a violation; more specifically, a traffic infraction. Nonetheless, you could still be penalized with up $250 in fines and/or up to 15 days in jail.
If those consequences sound like they’re “not a big deal,” keep in mind they apply only to instances of property damage. If a person is hurt, but you leave the scene early (i.e. before reporting the incident to law enforcement and sharing your license, insurance information, name, and address), it does become a crime. You can be charged with a class A (highest level) misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in prison and $1,000 in fines.
Remember, those are only the repercussions for the act of leaving the scene — not for the act itself. For the separate act of actually hitting someone with your car, depending on the details it is possible to be charged with vehicular assault in the second (120.03) or first (120.04) degree, aggravated vehicular assault (120.04-A), vehicular manslaughter in the second (125.12) or first degree (125.13), or even aggravated vehicular homicide (125.14). While some are graded more severely than others, very single one of these crimes is charged as a felony. Respectively, the charges can be an E or D felony, C felony, D or C felony, and B felony. An E felony can result in up to four years in prison, while a B felony can be sentenced with up to 25.
On an eerie closing note, Grzegorczyk’s life is not the first to be claimed by this particular intersection. In 2012, 12-year-old Freddie Endres was fatally struck by an 18-wheeler as he attempted to cross on his bicycle. Endres was rushed to the hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival at the Wyckoff Medical Center in Brooklyn — just days before his 13th birthday. However, there is one significant difference between these two tragic stories: in Endres’ case, the driver stopped immediately and remained at the scene. He was not criminally charged in Endres’ death.
If you ever accidentally hit someone with your car, no matter how minor or major the accident scene is, do not panic and flee the scene in an attempt to evade police. This will only make your situation worse. Try to remain calm, stay at the accident scene, and call an experienced attorney right away. To set up a completely confidential legal consultation with Queens criminal defense lawyer Victor Knapp, Esq., call (718) 263-9000, or contact our law offices online.