Can You Go to Jail for Scratching a Car

Accidents can sometimes occur but how you handle them is what matters. If you scratch a car, you need to take responsibility and resolve the matter.

Some people resort to fleeing the scene without knowing that fleeing the scene is a crime, more like “hit and run”. You can be arrested and charged to court for that. Therefore, can you go to jail for scratching a car?

You can go to jail for scratching a car if someone was injured or died in the process and if you flee the scene of the accident.

What Does it Mean to Scratch a Car?

To scratch, a car is to dent a car with marks. It is possible for you to accidentally scratch a car with your own vehicle.

For many car lovers and admirers, car scratches can be really annoying and frustrating. No one loves to see their car scratched by someone who was just being careless.

Scratches really dull the look of a car so many people hate to see their cars scratched. Briefly, let’s talk about the type of car scratches and how to fix them.

There are 3 types of car scratches:

  • Clear-coat scratch
  • Primer-level scratch and
  • Deep-paint scratch.

Clear Coat Scratch

Clear-coat is a thin layer of paint that protects the body of the car from atmospheric issues such as acidic rain, dust, direct exposure to sunlight, etc. If a car is affected by this type of scratch, it can easily be fixed or repaired.

Primer Level Scratch

Primer scratch is a kind of scratch that affects the primer of a car. A primer is a form of protection applied to a car to make it have a smooth, shiny, and stunning look.

If a scratch on the car moves through the clear coat surface and affects the primer, it is possible that the car’s body might rust. It is best for you to repair it quickly if it happens. You will need the help of an expert to tell you what to do to fix the scratch.

Deep Paint Scratch

The paint scratch is the most severe type of scratch. It happens when the damage affects the body of a car such that the metal sheet of the car is visible.

This kind of scratch only occurs during a major accident or when someone uses a sharp object such as a key, a stone, or any hard object to intentionally damage the body of the car.

When your car gets scratched, what do you do? There are different ways you can fix your scratched car. There are many scratch remover methods you can use to clear a scratch on your car depending on the intensity.

Can You Go to Jail for Scratching a Car?

No, under normal circumstances, you should not go to jail for scratching a car. But you can end up in jail if you abscond from the scene of the incident.

When Can You Go to Jail for Scratching a Car?

If you abscond from the scene of the incident, you can be arrested and charged. The same applies if someone is injured or there is a death in the process, fleeing the scene of the accident will land you in jail.

When you scratch someone else’s car, do not flee the scene no matter how tense or nervous you are. If you leave the scene after hitting someone, you can be termed a “hit and run driver” and you can be charged in court with a felony.

If the owner of the car is not around the vicinity of the incident, leave a note under the wiper that contains your name and contact information that the person can use to locate you.

Better still, you can turn yourself in at the nearest police station to report the case or call the police to report the incident.

When Can You Not Go to Jail for Scratching a Car?

You cannot go to jail for scratching a car when you wait and contact the owner of the car. If you contact the owner of the car, it means you are sorry and it was accidental so there is no way you will go to jail for scratching the car.

More so, if you scratch a car and report yourself to the police, you will not be going to jail. It is only when you flee the scene of the incident that you can go to jail because that will only make it look intentional and you can be charged with a felony.

What Should You Do After Scratching a Car?

As stated earlier, scratching another car as a driver is not a new thing. It also happens to the most experienced of drivers. It is not about how good you are or how long you have been driving. You can scratch or hit a car without knowing, or scratch a car that is not parked well or that was moving against the flow of traffic. It happens.

But there’s something you should do after that. How you handle the situation when you scratch a car is very important.

The handling of the post-incident is more important than the incident itself. It is important that you do not find yourself in police trouble or legal issues.

You need to do the following things to make sure that you have cleared yourself legally and morally after scratching a car.

1. Compose Yourself

When you scratch a car, it is natural that you feel a bit nervous and your anxiety levels rise. In these times, it is imperative that you exude a bit of calmness and show no sign of panic.

Oftentimes, many people panic when they realize they have scratched a very expensive car and the cost of fixing might be quite high. You should try as much as possible to remain calm and not panic.

2. Do Not Run Away from The Scene

This is the most important thing you should do after scratching a car – stay at the scene. Fleeing the scene implies that it was intentional and you are not willing to pay for it. The owner of the car, the police, and your insurance company will find it difficult to believe you.

When you flee the scene, it makes it look like a felony or a misdemeanor and that is punishable by the law. You can be fined, serve jail time, or be issued license points.

You should look for the owner of the car instead. If you can’t see the owner, ask people around and make efforts to locate the person.

3. Drop Your Contact Details If Must Leave

If you’ve tried all this and you still can’t see the owner, you can leave a note on the car for the person to contact you when they come.

The note should contain your name, phone number, email address, and possibly your home address. With this, the car owner can contact you afterward and your mind will be at rest.

4. Let the Police Know About the Accident

In many states, it is required that you report accident cases to the police immediately if you cannot reach the car’s owner.

In New York, you are mandated by the law to inform the police if you cannot contact the car’s owner. Many other states have this law in place too.

If you fail to do it, it means you are in violation of the law and there is a stipulated punishment attached to that.

5. Snap or Take Video Recordings of the Scratched Car

In these days of technology, everything is simpler. If you need to have proof or evidence about something, all you need to do is take pictures and videos with your phone. You need to do this to have proof of the extent of the damage.

6. Communicate With People Around

Also, you need to talk to people around the scene of the accident. Inform them that you need to speak with the car’s owner. If they know the whereabouts of the person, you will be informed.

7. Let Your Insurance Company Know About the Incident

If your vehicle is covered by an insurance company, you need to inform them immediately. Tell them the details of the accident and leave them to handle the rest.

What Should Not Do After Scratching a Car?

  • Do Not Flee the Scene of the Accident: You should not flee the scene of the accident. Do not run away no matter how bad the damage is. If you must leave, ensure to leave your contact details so the car owner can reach you.
  • Do Not Start a Fight: You need to remain calm and discuss with the car’s owner how you will bear the cost of damages.

However, if after the incident happened and you fled the scene but later come to your senses, you can quickly return to the scene to check if hopefully, you can still find the car there with the owner.

If you cannot find the car and its owner at the scene after returning, then you need to call the police and inform them immediately.

You can also speak with an attorney concerning the incident and seek legal advice. Leaving the scene without doing the needful is not the best action to take. Doing so is like adding more fuel to the fire.


If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve scratched a car. You have the responsibility of owning up to the car’s owner and paying for damages. If you flee the scene, you become a hit-and-run driver and you can go to jail for that.