“I received a letter in the mail from the MPD Hit and Run Coordinator alleging that my vehicle was involved in a hit and run downtown”

hit-run
Photo by PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

Letter from MPD Hit and Run Coordinator

“I am wondering if anyone has dealt with a similar situation. A few days ago I received a letter in the mail from the DCPD Hit and Run Coordinator alleging that my vehicle was involved in a hit and run downtown. The letter provides the date of the alleged accident, my license plate number, and no other information regarding the accident or evidence in DCPD’s possession. Finally, the letter provides a date at which I am supposed to appear at the police station to speak with the Hit and Run Coordinator regarding the accident. I am very concerned as my car was not on the road that day. In fact, I keep my car in my complex’s garage, and was able to obtain the garage records which show that my car did not leave or exit the garage on the date specified in the letter.

Walking into the police station to discuss an alleged accident sounds like a fast-track to self-incrimination, but I am hesitant to pay for an attorney to represent me at this point because I know for a fact that my car was not involved in the accident, and no charges have been brought.

If anyone has dealt with a similar situation I would be very interested to hear how you resolved it.”

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40 Comment

  • Lawyers are expensive.

    Know what is more expensive? Six months in jail.

  • Three words of advice: Retain a lawyer. Rinse. Repeat. I will say however that thy have t shown up at your door with a warrant to impound your car or sent a detective to cold question you is probably a good sign.

  • I’m confused how they would have your license plate number. Unless all they had was a description of the vehicle and then were able to search for vehicles of that description in the DMV database and turned up your plate number?

    • Something similar happened to me once. Got a call late at night from my dad telling me a detective had called him looking for me (still don’t understand that as my car is registered under my name, but anyway…). The detective described my car, and then confirmed my license plate and asked me a bunch of questions about my whereabouts that night. I hadn’t been driving and didn’t even know the location in question existed.
      Never heard a word again after that conversation. My guess is that someone got the car description and maybe a partial-plate and they were just running through everyone with a match.
      A year or so later, I came across a car with the exact make, model, and color as mine and our license plates only differed by two characters… I still wonder if that was the culprit.

      • houseintherear

        Agreed- this is likely based on a partial plate # and car description that a witness reported, and they are running down the line to narrow it down. I’d bring the garage records/proof and not yet retain a lawyer.

  • jim_ed

    I had something kinda similar happen a few months ago. About 2 am, there was a knock at my door – which is not a pleasant thing – and found two MPD officers there asking if I owned a car with license plate “XXXX”, which was my car. I said yes, and they asked if I had been driving recently, which I told them no, I hadn’t been in the car since I had gotten home 8 hours ago.
    .
    I assumed someone had stolen it from where it had been parked up the street about 5 houses away, but it turns out a dude on a bicycle had crashed into my parked car while fleeing someone else (it’s a weird story), gotten up and tried to run away, and then collapsed two blocks away. He then claimed I had run him off the road on purpose. The police were able to determine from the evidence at the scene that his story was bullshit, and was corroborated by a witness who pulled up in a car while I was outside with MPD. Long story short, they were just doing due dilligence even though they basically already knew the story was crap.
    .
    Not sure this helps at all, but if you know for sure that your car was at home that day, I’d go down and talk to them and make a statement saying as much before I got a lawyer involved.

    • This story is kind of hilarious (other than the police at your door at 2 am). How on earth do you crash your bicycle into a parked car so badly that you collapse? And then make up a story about how a parked car hit you?

      • Drunk biking is my guess. 🙂

      • jim_ed

        The details were a little convoluted, but it appears he had stolen some woman’s purse a few blocks away, and in his mad dash from the crime, he had side swiped a car out front of Macombo Lounge on Ga Ave. The owner of that car saw him do it, so he started running after him, and I guess in his escape from that guy, he maybe turned around to look behind him and smashed into my side mirror, which sent him face first over my hood. He was lucky that the spot in front of me was open, or he very well may have been killed. He got up, left his bike, then ran off like two blocks before collapsing, and was taken away in an ambulance where I guess he concocted the road rage story about my car. Luckily he hit my beater commuter car, so I fixed the damage myself and didn’t take it through insurance, and never followed up with the police about the incident, so I have no idea what happened afterwards.

  • I would see what case they have before going to pay for a lawyer. You know you didn’t do anything wrong so it just comes down to disproving what they have come up with. At any point during the talk, you could invoke if you feel the conversation bending in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.

  • My office handles these types of investigations routinely. I definitely do not recommend speaking to police under any circumstances without first talking to an attorney.

    Please contact us at 202-870-0889 and we are happy to schedule you for a free consultation to answer all of your questions.

  • This is not a warrant. Don’t respond. If they come at you with a warrant, then call an attorney. Sounds like standard police procedure–tricking civilians into self-incrimination. Not to mention the intimidation factor of asking you to come to them.

    • I don’t know or endorse the solicitation above, but I’m sure there are many lawyers who would offer a free initial consultation. It seems well worth the piece of mind to get some general advice and have someone you feel comfortable calling if you’re forced to.

    • Or they could just be trying to narrow down a list of partial plate matches to help catch a person who actually DID do something bad, like injure a pedestrian or cyclist.

      • Right, and let’s be thankful they actually are trying to find the person responsible. I’ve given the police partial license plate numbers quite a few times and I’d much rather they contact a few people who were obviously not responsible and clear them than throw up their hands and say there’s nothing they can do without the full plate number.

    • Comment Artist

      Exactly. You can never, EVER trust the police in such circumstances.

  • This happened to me a few years ago. Just call the number on the letter and speak with the coordinator – they are just trying to get your side of the story. See where things go from there.

    In my case, I told them that I was not driving my car that day. After speaking with me, they questioned the witness more, and he said that the car was a Mustang – I drive a Mazda hatchback. After that, they sent me a letter basically saying that the hit-and-run wasn’t me, and that I didn’t have to show up for the appointment. They told me that the appointment was to check if my car had any damage.

    As an almost-attorney (who is not giving legal advice), I can say that I never even thought to consult an attorney during this process. It is something that you can easily navigate yourself, especially if you have written proof that your car was in your garage. The police aren’t out to get you – they are just doing their jobs.

    • Yes, the police aren’t after you, until they decide that they are. Which they could decide during or after talking with you. I’d go with the lawyer advice. It is probably nothing. But then, many people have had the police decide to go after them in the wrong, and regretted not seeking legal advice at the beginning.

    • This is terrible advice in both spirit and substance. If you do decide to go into the police station, I *suggest* (as a licensed attorney who is most certainly not giving legal advice in the comment section of a blog, because FFS people) that you at least speak to an attorney before engaging with the police on this in any way. Any lawyer practicing in this field will be able to consult with you and explain fully what this type of notice means, how you should respond to it, and what could happen if you choose not to respond to it. I can’t guarantee this advice will come free, but it could very well end up being worth it.

  • It would be interesting to know where the alleged incident took place. My girlfriend’s father recently (within the last 2-3 months) got a similar letter after he was sitting at a red light on Thomas Circle and noticed someone get out of the car behind him and snap a photo of the back of his car. He had shrugged it off until he got a letter saying he’d been in a hit and run in the same place at the same time. He had a lawyer go in with him to the police station and was able to explain the situation sufficiently to have the incident dismissed.

  • Just don’t respond. You know how I know this? My car got totaled by a hit and run driver. Had the license plate, had witnesses. The hit and run detective notified me that they sent a letter to the registered owner and that person never showed up. Case closed.

    • Didn’t your insurance shake things up or go after the driver themselves?

      • It played out like anon mentions below. Couldn’t prove that the owner was responsible, so my insurance had no one to sue. And I was told that there is only one hit and run detective in all of DC (apparently, tried to confirm this without success) and he was on vacation. 3 weeks later when he finally got to my case I’m sure the car would have been repaired regardless, so it would have been he said she said if that person had even responded. And the police don’t exactly just hand out names and addresses of people you think hit you so you can go to the house and demand payment. I ended up suing my car company to get some kind of payment for the loss of the car. I am not bitter. much.

  • While we didn’t get the letter and a date to appear anywhere, my roommate got a home visit from MPD alleging he was in a hit and run. His car wasn’t on the road at the time of the incident.

    a bit of a troubling pattern…

  • Someone hit me and left the scene. I provided the police with the car make and model, license plate and a description of both the driver and the passenger. The police told me unless I had taken a picture of the person driving then there was nothing they could do.

    Most attorneys who handle things like this will give you a free consult.

  • I think not at least consulting with a lawyer is penny-wise and pound-foolish. I’m a lawyer in a totally unrelated field and have had plenty of clients screw up a matter trying to handle it themselves before coming to us. As Lincoln (maybe!) said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

  • Pretty simple and save you some money. If you have proof that your car didn’t leave the garage at all and there is no way it was your car. Bring that documentation to the meeting and if for some reason that doesn’t suffice ask “am I under arrest?”, “am I free to leave?” And “I won’t answer any more questions without an attorney present.” So that way you can gauge what the letter is all about and maybe save you some money. Plus, by some chance you did do this and get arrested, DC doesn’t put criminals in jail that commit robberies and other violent felonies. So the little Hit and run report won’t be more than a fine for whomever did it. Don’t stress, the courts system doesn’t punish any criminals here.

    • I don’t disagree with this (though I also agree with the above comment to call and say “that wasn’t me” and see what they have to say over the phone), but I’d also recommend going without your car, if you do go. Metro/bus/Uber/whatever, just DON’T bring your car. You don’t yet know what happened in the hit-and-run in question, and they could construe any scratch or dent as evidence, if you bring the vehicle to them. I’d show up, say I wasn’t driving that day, give them the garage in-and-out records that showed your car was in the garage the whole day, and tell them you won’t answer any further questions without a lawyer present.

      • Accountering

        This is my thought as well. Don’t bring the car, bring your records, and if they start questioning then say you are going to need to talk with a lawyer. Just those records SHOULD clear it up.

    • Does this make anyone else sad, too? Even MPD knows that nothing is ever done. Sigh.

  • This happened to me a few years ago (I was contacted by my insurance company about a reported hit and run involving my license plate). My car was not on the road at the time of the accident, and the accident occurred in a part of town where ive never been. Turned out that the witness saw a car that looked nothing like mine, and must have gotten the license plate wrong. Investigator came out, checked out the car carefully, confirmed no sign of accident or repainting, and closed the dime.

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