Leaving the scene of an accident is commonly referred to as a “hit and run”, it happens when a vehicle is involved in an accident and then leaves without having complied with the requirement outlined in Florida Statute 316.062. That statute lists the information that a person needs to provide when involved in a motor vehicle accident, this information includes a person’s name, address and registration number of the vehicle they were driving.
If a person fails to remain at the scene to provide this then they could be committing the criminal offense of leaving the scene of an accident. It is important to note that the crime is not getting into an accident, an accident happens from time to time, the criminal act which could lead to a person being charged is simply leaving the accident.
Serious Consequences for Hit and Run
Like a lot of criminal charges leaving the scene of an accident can vary depending on the factual scenario of the accident if no person was hurt and the accident resulted in only property damage then the offense would be a second-degree misdemeanor. A second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of 60 days in the county jail and up to a $500 fine.
If a person is injured in the accident then the serious of the injury will determine which degree felony a person may be charged with. Leaving the scene of an accident is a second-degree felony if a person’s injuries rise to the level of “serious bodily” injury which is an injury that creates a substantial risk of death, serious disfigurement or loss of function of a body member or organ. A second-degree felony is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine, it is also important to know that person convicted of this level offense will also have their driver’s license suspended for a period of at least three years.
If the injuries do not rise to the level of serious bodily injury then the offense would be leaving the scene of an accident involving injury pursuant to Florida statute 316.027(2)(a) which described the injuries as other than serious bodily injury. This specific offense is punished as a third-degree felony meaning the maximum period of incarceration would be 5 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. Again, a person would also face at least a 3-year minimum driver’s license suspension.
The most serious offense occurs when the accident results in an individual’s death, in this case the maximum penalty is increased to 30 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine, the maximum penalties for the leaving the scene involving death are more severe than DUI manslaughter which is a second-degree felony so the max would be 15 years. What is important to know is that there is a mandatory minimum sentence of 4 years in prison that must be imposed, in addition to the license suspension.
Proving, and Defending Against, Charges
To prove the crime of leaving the scene of an accident a prosecutor would need to show that the defendant was the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash and that the defendant knew that they were involved in a crash.
A person charged with leaving the scene of an accident may have potential defenses regarding these two elements. For instance, is there any evidence that would suggest who was driving the vehicle? Where there any wheel witness that could provide testimony as to the identity of the driver? How much damage was done to each vehicle, is it possible that the accident was slow impact a person may not have been aware they were in an accident?
If you’ve been charged with a leaving the scene of an accident regardless of the severity it is important to hire an attorney that is experienced and knowledgeable in not only dealing with criminal traffic offense but also knowledge regrind the injuries a person may sustain when in an accident. At Meldon Law we have the knowledge and experience in both areas, call us at 352-373-8000 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.