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DECISION REINFORCES WISCONSIN "HIT-AND-RUN" STATUTE
MADISON: A driver of a vehicle involved in accidents causing injury, death, or damage to another occupied vehicle must identify themselves as the operator, the Court of Appeals ruled today in State v. Aprylann Wuteska. This is the second significant decision issued by the Court of Appeals this year that interprets the state's "hit-and-run" statute to fulfill the statute's purpose of disclosing information so that the responsibility for an accident may be determined.
"Today's decision reinforces the authority of district attorneys to file charges in a wide variety of hit-and-run cases," said Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office handled the state's appeal. "The hit-and-run statute is designed to ensure that drivers do not flee accident scenes, assistance is given to those that are injured, and driver and vehicle information is disclosed and exchanged. If you are involved in any accident while driving a car, stay at the scene, help those who might be injured, and identify yourself. It's the law and it's the right thing to do."
The charge in Wuteska's case arose out of a collision between a motorcycle and a pickup truck that resulted in the death of the motorcycle operator. The Marquette County District Attorney's Office charged Wuteska with a violation of the state's hit-and-run statute, based on the fact that Wuteska inaccurately told an investigating officer that she was the passenger in the pickup truck.
The Marquette County Circuit Court concluded that Wuteska could not be charged with a violation of the statute based on her failure to identify herself as the driver. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals disagreed, concluding that the hit-and-run statute "requires an operator of a vehicle to identify himself or herself as the operator of the vehicle." The Court of Appeals ordered that Wuteska be bound over for trial on the Marquette County prosecution's charge under the hit-and-run statute, Wis. Stat. Ð’ 346.67(1).
In State v. Dawn D. Dartez, decided in March, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals concluded that the hit-and-run statute may be applied to cases where an operator loses control of her/his vehicle on a highway, even where the actual collision occurs off the highway.
Wuteska and Dartez were both pretrial appeals. Both defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence at this stage of the proceedings, and the State will be required to prove its allegations beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals' decision in Wuteska may be accessed at
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals' decision in Dartez may be accessed at
The State was represented in Wuteska in the Court of Appeals by Assistant Attorney General David J. Becker.
The State was represented in Dartez in the Court of Appeals by Assistant Attorney General Juan Colas.