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Leaving Scene Of Accident With Death In Tennessee

Preliminarily, the offense of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a death is governed by Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-101, which requires that:

the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident or as close thereto as possible, but shall then forthwith return to and in any event shall remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-103.

Id. at (a). The failure "to stop or comply with the requirements of subsection (a) is a class E felony when such person knew or should reasonably have known that death resulted from the accident." Id.

at (b)(2). Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-103(a) provides, in turn, that:

the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or damage to any vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall give such driver's name, address and the registration number of the vehicle such driver is driving, and shall, upon request and if available, exhibit that driver's operator's or chauffeur's license, or driver license, to the person struck or the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle collided with, and shall render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance . . . .

The purpose of the statute proscribing leaving the scene of an accident is to facilitate the investigation of automobile accidents and to assure immediate aid to those injured in automobile accidents. State v. Correll, 1999 Tenn.

We note that, consistent with this purpose, the plain meaning of the phrase "involved in an accident" does not necessarily entail physical contact between a motorist's vehicle and a person or another vehicle. Webster's Third International Dictionary 1191 (1993), provides the following common definitions of "involved":

"to be drawn in as a participant: engaged . . . obliged to become associated (as in an unpleasant situation): embroiled, entangled, implicated . . . related closely: connected, linked . . . ." Moreover, in the context of the statute at issue, this court has previously approved the following definition of "accident" set forth in Black's Law Dictionary, 15 (6th ed. 1990):

The word "accident" requiring operator of vehicle to stop immediately in case of accident, contemplates any situation occurring on the highway wherein driver so operates his automobile as to cause injury to the property or person of another using the same highway.

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