Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Orlando, Florida: A Comprehensive Guide by a Criminal Defense Attorney
Under Sections 316.061 and 316.027, Florida Statutes, the elements of Leaving the Scene of an Accident (commonly called “Hit and Run”) in Florida are:
- A driver of a vehicle was involved in a crash resulting in damage to a vehicle or other property or resulting in injury or death to a person; AND
- The driver failed to provide information and render aid, which requires:
- Immediately stopping at the scene of the crash, or as close to it as possible;
- Providing the driver’s information (name, address, vehicle registration number, and driver’s license or permit) to others involved and investigating police officers, or to the nearest police station if no officer is present and others involved in the crash are not in a condition to receive such information; and
- Providing reasonable assistance to anyone injured in the crash, including carrying the person to another location for medical assistance if necessary or requested by the injured person.
Notably, the State is not required to prove that you caused the crash, only that you were a driver involved in a crash.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Florida
The penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident depend on the extent of damage or injury caused by the crash. Florida law additionally imposes the following penalties if the accident resulted in any kind of injury or death (but not if it resulted only in property damage), on top of the penalties listed further below:
- Paying restitution for any damage or loss unless there are “clear and compelling reasons” not to require restitution
- Having your driver’s license revoked for three years
- Attending a victim’s-impact panel session or an advanced driver-improvement course;
|Type of Accident
|Second-degree misdemeanor, up to 60 days of jail or 6 months of probation, and a $500 fine.
|Non-serious Bodily Injury
|Third-degree felony, up to 5 years of prison or probation, and a $5,000 fine.
|Serious Bodily Injury
|Second-degree felony, up to 15 years of prison or probation, and a $10,000 fine.
|First-degree felony, up to 30 years of prison or probation, and a $10,000 fine. Mandatory minimum sentence of 4 years of prison.
Expanded Defenses for Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Florida
Defending a charge of Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Florida requires a comprehensive understanding of the law and a strategic approach. Here are some expanded defenses that can be employed:
Lack of Damage
One of the primary defenses is asserting that there was no damage caused by the accident. Under Florida law, there is only a duty to remain at the scene of a crash, provide information, and render aid if the crash resulted in property damage or injury. Thus, if your car collides with another’s property but does not damage it in any way, you cannot be convicted of Leaving the Scene of an Accident.
Lack of Knowledge
Another defense is the lack of knowledge about the accident or the resulting damage or injury. The Florida Supreme Court has held that the State is required to prove that you either knew or should have known that property damage or injury was involved. Thus, even if you knew that you were involved in a crash, you cannot be convicted of fleeing the scene unless you also knew (or should have known from the circumstances) of any resulting property damage or injury.
Aggressive Behavior from the Other Driver
In some cases, the other driver involved in the accident may have exhibited aggressive or threatening behavior, causing you to leave the scene out of fear for your safety. This can be a valid defense, especially if there is evidence to support your claim.
Non-willful Failure to Stop
If you can prove that your failure to stop was not willful, you may be able to defend against a charge of Leaving the Scene of an Accident. This could be the case if, for example, you were unaware that an accident had occurred or if you had a valid reason for not being able to stop at the scene.
If you can provide evidence that you were not at the scene of the accident, or that you were not driving the vehicle involved in the accident, you can use an alibi defense. This requires substantial evidence and is typically used in cases where the identity of the driver is in question.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony charge for Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Florida?
A misdemeanor charge for Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Florida typically involves property damage only, while a felony charge involves injury or death. The penalties for a felony charge are significantly more severe, including longer prison sentences and larger fines.
2. What does it mean to have a duty to remain at the scene of a crash?
Under Florida law, if you are involved in a crash, you are required to stop your vehicle at or near the scene, provide your information to the other parties involved and any investigating police officers, and render reasonable assistance to anyone injured in the crash. Failure to fulfill these duties can result in a charge of Leaving the Scene of an Accident.
3. What should I do if I am charged with Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Florida?
If you are charged with Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Florida, it is crucial to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you understand your rights, guide you through the legal process, and develop a strong defense strategy.
4. What are the potential defenses to a charge of Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Florida?
There are several potential defenses to a charge of Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Florida, including lack of damage, lack of knowledge, and presenting an alibi. The best defense strategy will depend on the specific circumstances of your case.
5. Can I get my charges reduced or dismissed?
Yes, it is possible to get your charges reduced or dismissed, depending on the circumstances of your case. An experienced leaving the scene of an accident attorney in Orlando can help you explore all possible legal alternatives and defenses, negotiate with the prosecutor, and fight for your rights in court.
Why You Need an Attorney
In all hit-and-run accident cases, defendants require an attorney. While the case is in the investigation phase, lawyers can communicate with the police, prevent the client from making negative assertions in front of law enforcement agencies, and present evidence to investigators in a way that is favorable for our client.
If charges are still pursued, we can talk to the prosecutor to determine if the best plea bargain is possible. In the event that prosecutor’s offices are not willing to engage in negotiations, our team will be able to ensure that all legal alternatives and defenses are considered and the rights of our client are protected throughout the entire process.
Contact the skilled Central Florida criminal defense lawyers at Leppard Law: Florida DUI Lawyers & Criminal Defense Attorneys PLLC by calling (407) 476-4111 or fill out our contact form on our website.