When the driver of a BMW smashed into a cyclist and then got out of his car to open his trunk last month in Salt Lake City, witnesses thought he was going to get something, “like a blanket,” according to police accident reports quoted by the Salt Lake Tribune. Instead, he left the trunk open so that his license plate could not be seen, got back into the car and drove away. His victim was left unconscious.
The charges that followed: Three misdemeanors. The crash could have been charged as a felony in most other states. A state-by-state review by the National Conference of State Legislatures found Utah’s hit-and-run laws are among the nation’s weakest. Police say Utah’s statutes benefit an impaired driver who hits someone and leaves the scene. Driver who are caught or confess after drugs or alcohol are no longer detectable may face only misdemeanor charges — even if the victim dies. If a driver stays at the scene and is found drunk, charges could include felony automobile homicide and enhanced charges if there are previous drunk-driving convictions.