Is Leaving the Scene of an Accident and Hit and Run the same thing?
Yes. In Florida, the criminal statute is referred to as Leaving the Scene of an Accident instead of “Hit and Run.” If you are charged with Leaving the Scene of an Accident, you should know that the consequences can be severe. Jail time, probation, fines, court costs, restitution, driver’s license suspensions are all possible if convicted, not to mention how that charge could affect your auto insurance premiums for the future.
What are the possible penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident or Crash?
In Florida, the possible penalties depend on the level of the offense. With Hit and Run, there are several different levels of charges depending on the facts of your case.
The lowest level offense is Leaving the Scene of a Crash Involving Property Damage.
This offense is a second degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 60 days in jail or 6 months probation. This is the most basic “hit and run.” It occurs when there is an accident with property or vehicle damage and the subject leaves before providing the proper information. This information includes at a minimum:
1. Your Driver’s License information including name and address.
2. Registration number of your vehicle.
In addition to providing proper identification, you are also required to:
1. Render aid in the case of an accident involving injury.
2. Make reasonable efforts to move a damaged vehicle to avoid blocking traffic.
What if the accident involves injury?
Leaving the Scene of a Crash Involving Personal Injury is a third degree felony and is punishable by up to five (5) years in prison. If you were involved in an accident, and that accident results in the physical injury of another person, then you are required to remain on the scene, provide proper identification and render reasonable aid. The criminal offense of leaving the scene of a crash involving injury requires the prosecutor to prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. The defendant was the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash and that crash resulted in an injury to another person with the defendant having knowledge that his/her vehicle was involved in a crash.
2. The defendant should have known of the injury to the other person.
3. The defendant failed to stop at the scene of the crash and remain there until he/she had given proper identifying information to the other subjects of the accident; or the defendant willfully failed to give or render reasonable aid or assistance to the injured person.
What if the accident results in Death?
This offense is a first degree felony punishable by up to thirty (30) years in prison. If there was an accident that resulted in the death of another person, then you are legally required to remain on the scene. The criminal offense of leaving the scene of a crash involving injury requires the prosecutor to prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. The defendant was the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash and that crash resulted in the death of another person with the defendant having knowledge that his/her vehicle was involved in a crash.
2. The defendant should have known of the severe injury/death of another person.
3. The defendant failed to stop at the scene of the crash and remain there until he/she had given proper identifying information to the other subjects of the accident or police; or the defendant willfully failed to give or render reasonable aid or assistance to the severely injured person.
What if I am I am charged with Leaving the Scene of an Accident and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) at the same time?
It is common for the police in Fort Walton Beach to charge both of these crimes together. In Florida, if you are charged and convicted of Leaving the Scene of an Accident and DUI based on the same circumstance or chain of events, and if there was a death or injury as a result of the crash, the consequences can be quite severe. There is prison exposure of 15 to 30 years, with a minimum mandatory of 2 years in prison. If you would like to read our 3-part series on felony sentencing in Okaloosa County, Click Part I, Part II, Part III.
I think I might be under investigation for a Hit and Run offense. What should I do?
Any time a person believes that they are under investigation for a crime, the most important advice we can give you is do not talk to law enforcement until after you have met with and hired an attorney that has experience with these types of cases. Your attorney can speak for you–without you admitting to the charges. It may be tempting to reply to an accusation, but don’t make that mistake. Consult your attorney first, and know your constitutional rights! Your attorney can also help monitor for warrant activity and help facilitate arrest, be available for first appearance hearings, and properly address potential bond issues.
What should I do now?
Your freedom and your future are on the line. You shouldn’t trust either one to an over worked public defender that works for the same government that is trying to put you in prison. You only get one chance to make the right decision when choosing your defense team.
I invite you to call Flaherty Defense Firm today for a free consultation. Criminal Defense is our only area of practice, and we have been building our reputation right here in Fort Walton Beach for over 10 years. If you would like to see what our team can do for you, give us a call.
If you or a loved one has been charged with Hit and Run in Fort Walton Beach, Navarre, Niceville, or anywhere in Okaloosa or Santa Rosa County, call us today at (850) 243-6097 for a free, confidential consultation.