Under Florida law, a person is not permitted to leave the scene of an accident until all statutory obligations have been met. Specifically, you must stop your vehicle at the crash scene, stay there until you have provided all of your information to the other driver involved in the accident and until a police officer prepares a crash report, help anyone that is injured, and immediately call 911.
Although hit-and-run offenses are extremely common in Florida, the associated penalties are severe. Specifically, the punishment depends upon the way the offense is charged and the damages caused by the accident.
If the accident only involved damage to property, then the offense is charged as a second-degree misdemeanor for causing damage to unattended property such as a mailbox or fence, or damage to attended property such as an occupied vehicle on the roadway.
In some instances, leaving the scene of an accident can be charged as a felony, as follows:
- Non-serious bodily injury is charged as a third-degree felony;
- Serious bodily injury is charged as a second-degree felony; or
- Death is charged as a first-degree felony.
Florida case law establishes that an issue in many hit-and-run accidents is whether the accident resulted in any damages or whether the accused had knowledge that a crash involving damages occurred. If no damages resulted from the accident, then it is not a crime to leave the accident scene. J.J. v. State, 842 So.2d 266 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2003).
Under Florida Statutes Section 316.062, the driver involved in an accident must stop at the accident scene or as close as possible to it in order to provide his or her name, address, and the registration number of his or her vehicle. Upon request, a driver must also show his or her driver’s license to the other driver or occupant of the other vehicle, any individual attending property damaged in an accident; and/or law enforcement at the scene.
Offenses charged pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 316.027 require proof that:
- The suspect was the operator of a vehicle;
- The vehicle was involved in an accident;
- The accident happened on private or public property;
- The driver willfully did not stop at the crash scene or close to it; and
- The driver willfully failed to stay at the accident scene until he or she has complied with the requirements of Florida Statutes Section 316.062.
The penalties associated with leaving the scene of the accident are contingent upon whether any individual sustained non-serious bodily injury, serious bodily injury, or death.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Non-Serious and Serious Bodily Injury
It is a third-degree felony when a driver leaves the scene of an accident and caused non-serious bodily injury. It is a second-degree felony if serious bodily injury occurred due to a hit-and-run crash.
Under Florida Statutes Section 316.027, “serious bodily injury” means “an injury to a person, including the driver, which consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.”
The difference between serious and non-serious injury is sometimes difficult to ascertain. A seasoned Florida criminal defense lawyer can assist you in presenting a strong defense strategy demonstrating that no bodily injury occurred or that the injury was not serious enough to warrant being convicted of a second-degree felony.
Leaving the Scene of a Crash Involving a Fatality
Leaving the scene of an accident involving death is a first-degree felony, which is punishable by up to thirty years in jail. There is a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of four years, however, the court can waive this requirement under certain circumstances, including if the hit-and-run driver was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. Specifically, the court can choose not to impose the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment if it “finds that a factor, consideration, or circumstance clearly demonstrates that imposing a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment would constitute or result in an injustice.”
If a person caused a hit-and-run accident and willfully leaves the scene of an accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she will face a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident and Driver’s License Revocation
Depending upon the number of prior offenses, the court or the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will order the revocation of the offender’s driver’s license for a certain period of time as set forth under Florida law. The greater number of previous offenses, the longer the period of time that the offender will lose his or her driving privileges. Under certain circumstances, an offender can permanently lose his or her driver’s license.
Contact Musca Law Today. Your Life and Your Liberty Depend Upon It!
If you are facing charges of leaving the scene of an accident 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.