Leaving the Scene of an Accident Defense Lawyer in Florida

According to Florida law, any driver who is involved in a motor vehicle collision is required by law to stop, provide any other motorists with contact and collision insurance information, and wait for law enforcement to arrive at the scene of the accident. In Florida, all drivers must remain at the scene of an accident even if a driver feels they were not at fault for the accident. The consequences of leaving the scene of an accident in Florida are severe. No matter how insignificant the accident may have been, leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident is illegal in the State of Florida.

The State of Florida defines Leaving the Scene of an Accident (Hit and Run) as a driver failing to stay at the scene of a motor vehicle accident and satisfy other statutory duties, when the accident involves property damage, bodily injury, or death.

What are the Penalties for "Hit and Run" or "Leaving the Scene of an Accident" Criminal Charges in Florida?  

In the State of Florida, hit-and-run accidents are serious criminal offenses that range in punishment severity depending on the accident's facts and circumstances. Once a driver has decided to leave the scene of an accident, he or she will be subject to a criminal investigation and any subsequent criminal charges related to the collision. Once the suspect has been identified, arrested, and charged with a hit-and-run criminal charge, he or she will face a criminal trial. The outcome of that trial could either result in an acquittal or a conviction. If the accused is found guilty, the punishments and penalties will be severe.  

The Reasons Why Some Drivers Flee the Scene of an Accident 

The most common reasons why drivers leave the scene of the accident include:

  • The driver didn't have a license. 
  • The driver was driving a stolen car.
  • The driver didn't have car insurance.
  • The driver was intoxicated.
  • The driver was driving on a suspended license.
  • The driver was driving an unregistered vehicle.
  • The driver was committing a crime.
  • The driver was fleeing police officers in pursuit.
  • Someone in the vehicle had an outstanding warrant.
  • The driver was afraid of getting in trouble.
  • The driver or an occupant inside the vehicle was an undocumented immigrant.
  • The driver or passenger was involved in an emergency situation.

None of these afforementioned reasons would offer the accused a valid excuse enabling he or she to avoid criminal prosecution. Also, these excuses would not provide the defendant with good vehicular manslaughter defense. Leaving the scene of an accident, regardless of how little damage, is a crime that carries time in jail. 

The Punishments for "Hit and Run" or "Leaving the Scene of an Accident" in Florida

The punishments for drivers convicted of hit-and-run accidents were updated when a new law called the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, which became Florida in July 2014.  The criminal statute was created and named after the victim of a fatal accident involving a drunk driver. The drunk driver fled the accident scene and was later charged and convicted. In 2012, the sentencing guidelines punished the drunk driver with two years in prison. That jail sentence was less than what the defendant would have received if convicted of DUI manslaughter in Florida.

The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act established a new mandatory minimum sentence of 4 years in prison when a driver leaves the scene of a fatal accident. The driver's license will also be revoked and the driver will be required to take a driver education course relevant to the road usage rights of vulnerable road users (pedestrians) and motor vehicles.

The penalties for a hit-and-run criminal offense are severe and if the defendant is found guilty, he or she will receive one or more of the following punishments: 

  • suspension of driver's license, 
  • expensive fines, 
  • jail sentence, and/or
  • probation.  

Also, if the defendant is found guilty, he or she could also be sued in civil court resulting in a civil judgement of thousands or millions of dollars. A civil action may be filed regardless of a criminal conviction. However, the civil action may have a better chance of success when the accused has been found guilty of the crime in a criminal justice court.  

According to Florida Statutes 316.061, and 316.027, Leaving the Scene of an Accident may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts and circumstances of the accident. For example, if the accident only caused minor property damage, the charge may be filed as a second-degree misdemeanor. A second-degree misdemeanor is charge carries penalties of a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail. If the accident caused personal injury or death, the criminal charge will be enhanced to a felony criminal charge. If the accident caused injuries, the criminal charge is a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies are punished with a legal fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to 5 years in prison. If the accident caused the death of another, the criminal charge is a first-degree felony. A first-degree felony in Florida is punishable with a license suspension for at least three years, and a fine up to $10,000 fine and/or a prison sentence of up to 30 years in prison. If the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the accident, the driver's license will be suspended plus he or she may receive a mandatory minimum sentence is two years in prison. 

Contact Musca Law Today. Your Life and Your Liberty Depend Upon It!

If you or a member of your family is facing a hit-and-run criminal charge in Florida, contact our seasoned Florida criminal defense attorneys at Musca Law. 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. 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.