Fatal Hit-and-Run Incident: A Legal Perspective

In the early hours of a recent Friday in Northeast Philadelphia, a heart-wrenching tragedy unfolded. Billy McWilliams, a lively and adventurous 16-year-old, was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bicycle (Chang, 2023). The vehicle in question, a stolen Dodge Charger, was later located by the police, who are continuing their search for the driver involved (Chang, 2023). This event has caused waves of sorrow, anger, and distress, echoing throughout the city and raising several pressing legal issues.

This incident brings to the fore the grave legal and societal implications of hit-and-run cases, particularly in a state like Pennsylvania. Hit-and-run offenses have long been considered serious crimes in the United States, with the penalties varying by state. In Pennsylvania, a driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death is legally obligated to stay at the scene until law enforcement arrives (75 Pa. C.S. § 3744(a)).

Failure to comply with this duty can result in a third-degree felony charge if the accident results in death (75 Pa. C.S. § 3744(b)). Consequently, the unknown driver in this case is potentially facing felony charges for leaving the scene of the accident, compounded by charges of vehicular homicide. As Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small noted, leaving the scene voluntarily amplifies the severity of the offense (Chang, 2023).

This case also brings attention to the issue of stolen vehicles and their misuse, a challenge faced by several cities in the US. There are historical cases, such as Hutchinson v. Commonwealth (1998), where stolen vehicles were used in hit-and-run cases, underscoring the grim intersection between property crimes and fatal incidents. In this case, the stolen vehicle adds a layer of complexity to the investigation, necessitating collaboration between different units within law enforcement to trace the culprit.

The fatal accident also underscores the pressing need for stricter safety measures for cyclists in Philadelphia. This incident has reignited a contentious debate that has seen advocates, such as the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, push for increased infrastructure and legislation aimed at protecting cyclists. The legal landscape surrounding cyclist safety is continually evolving, with cities like New York pioneering laws such as Local Law 115 of 2019 that aim to increase the number of protected bike lanes.

Lastly, speed, identified as a contributing factor in this case (Chang, 2023), continues to be a pervasive issue in fatal traffic accidents. Notably, in Birchfield v. North Dakota (2016), the Supreme Court underscored the importance of mitigating drunk driving. However, speeding, a factor as equally lethal, often doesn't receive the same attention.

To conclude, the tragic incident involving young Billy McWilliams is a stark reminder of the legal and societal implications surrounding hit-and-run cases, stolen vehicles, cyclist safety, and speeding. As the city grieves the loss of a young life, these issues remain at the forefront of public discussion, underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive legislative measures to address them.


  • Chang, D. (2023, July 30). Police find hit-and-run vehicle that killed teen bike rider, officials say. NBC Universal, Inc.
  • 75 Pa. C.S. § 3744(a), (b) (2023).
  • Hutchinson v. Commonwealth, 710 A.2d 926 (Pa. Super. 1998).
  • Birchfield v. North Dakota, 579 U.S. ___ (2016).
  • New York City Council, Local Law 115 (2019).


KaplanMarx is a Philadelphia based law firm focusing on personal injury and accident cases. We pride ourselves in our community roots and help injury victims and their families every day to recover.



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