The numbers of individuals leaving the scenes of accidents have remained relatively steady in Florida and throughout Escambia County, FL. In 2015, there were approximately 92,000 hit and run accidents. Of those 92,000 cases for hit and run, about 180 resulted in death. More than half of those death cases involved a pedestrian. Most hit and run cases result in damage to attended property, (an occupied vehicle), or unattended property (a parked car), or mailbox.
The driver involved in a hit and run accident could have their licenses suspended for at least three years and experience massive spikes in their insurance rates. Consequences for leaving the scene can be much worse depending on whether personal injury or property damage occurred.
Understandably, car accidents can be scary, especially when you are at fault. However, leaving the scene of an accident can turn a mistake into a serious criminal traffic offense. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney to help navigate the pitfalls of dealing with the insurance company and the criminal justice system.
Contact attorney John Terrezza to discuss your criminal traffic case. Related charges can include reckless driving, DUI, and driving with a suspended or revoked driver's license. John Terrezza also represents commercial drivers and CDL license holders in Pensacola and the surrounding areas.
During the consultation, you can learn more about the elements of the offense, the potential penalties, and the best defenses available for fighting the criminal prosecution. Call (850) 764-5291 today.
Florida Statute §316.027 requires the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident, whether it occurred on public or private property, to immediately stop the vehicle at, or near the scene of the crash, and remain at the scene until the parties involved exchange names, addresses, vehicle registration numbers, and driver’s licenses and, if needed, render reasonable assistance to those injured in the crash.
If any of the individuals involved in the crash, in Florida, are not in a condition received the required information and no police officer is present, then the driver of any vehicles involved in the crash must report the accident to the nearest police station.
Criminal statutes change everyday words and phrases into something that has a specific meaning with legal ramifications. Below are a few helpful definitions from the hit and run statute.
“Serious Bodily Injury” is defined as an injury to a person, including the driver, which creates a high risk of death, disfigurement, or loss or impairment of a body part or organ.
“Vulnerable road user” is another term for pedestrian, but also includes and of the following:
Leaving the scene of an accident is a direct violation of the Florida Statutes, and the consequences depend on whether there was injury, death, or property damage.
Additionally, §316.027 requires violators to pay restitution to the victim for any damages or loss (unless the court finds otherwise). Restitution may be monetary or nonmonetary.
If you abandon the site of an accident that resulted in death or injury and you were driving under the influence, the penalty is a mandatory minimum of two (2) years in prison.
Misdemeanor Hit and Run Penalties
In Florida, hit and run accidents, often called "leaving the scene," that do not involve injury to a person are classified as second-degree misdemeanors.
Drivers who leave the scene of an accident that resulted in a vehicle or other property damage. Florida Statute §316.061.
A driver who hits an unattended vehicle or parked car and leaves the scene must make a reasonable effort to find the owner of the property or leave their name, address, and registration number attached to a conspicuous place on the damaged property. (See Florida Statute §316.063)
Under Florida law, the penalties for second-degree misdemeanors are up to sixty (60) days in jail and up to $500 fines.
Defenses for Leaving the Scene
Some of the most common defenses to hit and run charges are a lack of knowledge or willfulness.
Regarding the lack of knowledge defense, the State must prove that the defendant had actual knowledge of the accident. In State v. Dorsett, 158 So. 3d 557 (Fla. 2015), the Florida Supreme Court held that the prosecution must show that the defendant had “actual knowledge” of the crash as an element in proving the case.
For willfulness, the prosecution must prove that the defendant willfully failed to stop at the scene of a crime, or give reasonable assistance.
“Hit and Run – Bad To Worse” - Visit the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website for more information about the 2015 statistics for motor vehicle hit and run accidents and other facts about leaving the scene.
Florida Statute §316.027 – Visit Online Sunshine, the official website of the Florida Legislature for the full statutory language contained in the Florida statute for hit and run accidents, also known as leaving the scene of an accident.
“Governor Scott Signs Legislation to Protect Florida’s Families” – Visit the official website of Florida Governor Rick Scott for information from the State Governor’s Office on the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act designed to “crack down” on hit and run accidents in Florida.
State v. Dorsett, 158 So. 3d 557 (Fla. 2015) – Visit the Florida Supreme Court website for the full opinion in State v. Dorsett regarding knowledge as an element in leaving the scene cases.
Not only can hit and run accidents can have criminal consequences, but they can also have drastic effects on your insurance, and your license. If you or someone you know in Pensacola, in Escambia County or Milton in Santa Rosa County, FL, has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident contact attorney John Terrezza.
The criminal defense law Terrezza Law is conveniently located in on Garden Street in downtown Pensacola,
Call (850) 764-5291 to discuss the case with John Terrezza. During the consultation, at his offices in Pensacola, Florida, you can learn more about the elements of this serious criminal traffic offense, the potential penalties and the best defenses available for fighting the criminal prosecution.
This article was last updated on Monday, December 19, 2016.