Under Florida law, it is imperative that a driver remains at the scene of the accident until all of the necessary information has been supplied to both the other driver and law enforcement. In Florida, leaving the scene of an accident, also known as a hit-and-run crash, is a serious crime that is associated with severe criminal repercussions. Keep in mind that the penalties associated with a hit-and-run accident depend upon whether the accused hit unattended or attended property and whether anyone sustained injuries in the accident.
If law enforcement suspects that an individual was involved in a hit-and-run crash, an officer can come to his or her place of employment or home to ask him or her a series of questions. Once the officer learns that the individual is represented by an attorney, they cannot interrogate him or her any further.
If an individual chooses to waive his or her rights and answers questions, then a law enforcement officer wants him or her to admit to one or more of the following elements of the crime of leaving the scene of an accident:
- The suspect’s automobile was involved in an accident;
- The suspect was driving at the item of the accident or the individual knowns who was behind the wheel at the time of the crash;
- The suspect knew or should have known that he or she was involved in an accident that caused injury or property damage; or
- The suspect fled the scene of the crash prior to providing all of the necessary information such as his or her name, address, and insurance information.
If you are suspected of causing a hit-and-run accident, do not make any statements to law enforcement until you are represented by an attorney. In the alternative, advise the investigating officer that you are invoking your right to remain silent until such time that you have spoken with your lawyer.
The moment that an individual invokes his or her right to an attorney, all questioning must cease. Most importantly, the fact that the suspect did not make any statements cannot be used against him or her at trial.
Another tactic that investigators use in hit-and-run cases is to put out a “Be On the Look Out,” or B.O.L.O., where anyone driving the suspect vehicle may be pulled over and questioned by law enforcement.
When law enforcement finds the vehicle involved in the hit-and-run crash, they can have it towed to an impound lot where it will be held for “evidence.” Most of the time, investigators do not secure a warrant to search the vehicle once it has been seized.
Defenses to Hit-and-Run Offenses
There are several defenses to hit-and-run crashes that include the following:
- The suspect’s automobile was not the one involved in the accident;
- The suspect was not operating a vehicle at the time of the alleged accident (where no witnesses observed the suspect behind the wheel);
- The suspect remained near the accident scene and gave all necessary information as required under Florida law; or
- The suspect did not intend to leave the scene to avoid giving all necessary information and only moved the suspect vehicle to a safer location.
The Penalties Associated with Causing a Hit-and-Run Accident
The penalties associated with a hit-and-run accident are contingent upon how the crime is charged. Specifically, it is a felony if an individual sustains injuries in a hit-and-run accident. However, the suspect will only be charged with a misdemeanor if he or she causes a crash that results in damage to unattended or attended property.
Under Florida law, a person who causes a hit-and-run accident will have their driver’s license revoked for at least three years and will also be required to submit to driver education courses.
If the suspect was driving under the influence and caused a hit-and-run accident, a motion to depart from the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for fleeing the scene of an accident resulting in death will be prohibited. The court is only able to grant a motion to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence only upon a showing that imposing the minimum term would amount to an injustice.
Fleeing the scene of a crash involving serious bodily injury is chargeable as a second-degree felony that is associated with a maximum fifteen-year prison term and a $10,000 monetary fine. A conviction for fleeing the scene of an accident involving the death of another is a first-degree felony that carries with it a mandatory minimum prison term of four years. The maximum sentence for fleeing the scene of an accident involving death is thirty years and also carries with it a monetary fine of $10,000.
Under Florida law, if a person flees the scene of an accident that just involved property damage, he or she will be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, which carries with it a maximum prison term of 60 days and a $500 monetary fine.
If the victim is a “vulnerable road user” as defined under Florida law, then a person who leaves the scene of the accident can face enhanced penalties pursuant to Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code.
Contact Musca Law Today. Your Life and Your Liberty Depend Upon It!
If you are facing hit-and-run charges in Florida, contact our seasoned Florida criminal defense attorneys at Musca Law as soon as possible in order to preserve your legal rights and interests. Our firm’s attorneys are among The National Trial Lawyers – Top 100 Trial Lawyers, included in the 2012 Florida Super Lawyers® for criminal defense, and boast 10.0 Superb Avvo ratings. We know how to protect your future. We are skilled, experienced, tenacious, and relentless when it comes to defending our clients.
Our seasoned Florida criminal defense attorneys work zealously to exploit the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and develop a strategic defense for our clients. Our record of success in and out of the courtroom speaks for itself. To learn more about how Musca Law can make a difference for you, call (888) 484-5057 today.