Driver’s in Florida have a legal obligation to remain at the scene of any accident involving other people that they may find themselves in. Furthermore, if any of the victims of the accident received any injuries, you have a legal obligation to stay and render the appropriate assistance. This may be checking that they have only received minor damages and injuries or if they have sustained a life-threatening injury, you have a duty to call the appropriate medical services. Even if you weren’t the one at fault in the accident, if you fail to remain at the scene of an accident, you can face hit and run charges.
If you are caught leaving the scene of an accident involving a serious bodily injury, the consequences of the subsequent hit and run charge can be devastating. A Florida hit and run car accident charge is considered at least a third-degree felony. This level of charge can result in up to 15 years of jail time, an additional 15 years spent under probation, driver’s license revocation, and fines, which can reach as high as $10,000 even if it was just a simple accident.
As such, if you were involved in a car accident, especially one involving an injury of a serious nature, securing representation from a lawyer with qualifications and experience in personal injury and traffic crime law is essential. The Law Place in Clearwater boasts a team with over 75 years of combined experience providing criminal defense to those accused of hit and runs under Florida law. To find out more and receive legal advice, schedule a free case evaluation and free consultation today. Our lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All our calls involve no obligation, and your sensitive details will be protected by the attorney-client relationship.
An attorney can help you as soon as you pick up the phone to make a call. Contact us on (941) 444-4444.
How Is Leaving the Scene of a Crash Defined Under Florida Law?
The laws surrounding leaving the scene of an accident, known colloquially as a hit and run, are contained in Florida Statute 316.061.
This states a person can be charged with leaving the scene of a crash if the following is true:
- A person is involved in a crash with a person or the property of another. This may be a building, other structure, or vehicle
- And the driver involved in the crashed then proceeds to willfully and deliberately leave the scene of the accident without providing the details that they are duty-bound to share in that situation. These details are their registration information, name, home address, and their driver’s license.
It may be the case that a driver cannot find the person who owned the property that was involved in the crash. In this instance, it is still a criminal offense to simply leave the accident scene. To avoid hit and run charges, you must contact a law enforcement agency and make them aware of the property damage situation.
How Does This Change if the Crash Involved Any Level of Injury or Death?
Florida Statute 316.027 sets forth the laws surrounding an accident involving bodily injury, serious injury, or death.
This clearly states that the legal process for an accident of this nature is for the driver to:
- Stop their motor vehicle immediately.
- Provide the relevant details to all other people involved at the scene of the accident. As above, these details are your registration information, name, home address, and driver’s license.
- Remain at the scene of the crash in order to provide an appropriate level of assistance to anyone injured in the crash. This is mainly in reference to emergency transport requirements and the contacting of medical services. If someone was killed in the crash, officials need to be notified.
No matter the situation, if you are involved in a crash, and someone sustained any level of personal injury, it is vital that you remain at the scene until the relevant officials and law enforcement arrive. If you do not, you will be charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving injury. This can result in you being charged with a third-degree felony, second-degree felony, or first-degree felony, depending on the level of injury or death involved.
What Are the Penalties for a Hit and Run Involving Serious Injury Conviction?
As mentioned above, a hit and run charge will differ in severity depending on whether it involves injury to another person or simply property damage. It will also depend on the severity of the injury sustained.
In cases of a minor personal injury, it is unlikely that the driver who left the scene will face any time in prison. However, if the personal injury sustained was one that caused a permanent disability, disfigurement, or death, then a felony charge is not out of the question.
We will break down the possible levels of charges for leaving the scene of an accident below.
An Accident Involving Property Damage
The punishment if you leave the scene of an accident that involved property damage is a second-degree misdemeanor.
Leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident involving property damage by itself in Clearwater, FL., is punishable by:
- A sentence of 60 days in prison.
- An additional 6 months spent under probation.
- A fine that could be as high as $500.
An Accident Involving Injury
If another person is injured in the crash, a driver who is charged with leaving the scene could face a third-degree felony.
Although this is the least severe level of a felony charge, it should still be treated much more seriously than a misdemeanor charge. This is because of the large difference between how misdemeanor charges and felony charges impact your criminal record.
A felony charge is something that you can never have expunged or sealed from your criminal record, which means that it is able to be viewed for the rest of your life. This can drastically impact your employment opportunities, ability to gain credit, scholarship and educational opportunities, and even much more niche things like legal battles for child custody.
As well as this, a third-degree felony for injuring someone and being charged with leaving the scene can result in up to:
- A five-year sentence in prison.
- An additional five years spent under probation.
- A fine that can reach as high as $5,000.
An Accident Involving Serious Bodily Injury
If you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident that involved a serious injury, this will be treated as a second-degree felony.
A serious bodily injury is defined as any injury that is able to pose the risk of death, disfigurement, a protracted loss, or the disabling of any part of the body of the person.
A successful guilty conviction for this level of crime could include:
- A jail sentence of up to 15 years.
- An additional 15 years of probation after this sentence.
- A fine that could total as high as $10,000.
An Accident Involving Death
If you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident that involved the actual death of another person, you are looking at the most serious level of this crime that a person can be charged with.
This is considered a first-degree felony by the law in Florida. This means you could face:
- A minimum of 4 years spent in prison and a maximum of 30 years.
- An additional 30 years of probation following this period.
- A fine totaling up to $10,000.
Revocation of Your Driver’s License
These state that you can expect to have your license revoked for an absolute minimum of three years if you are convicted of leaving the scene of a crash that caused an injury.
However, you may be able to apply for a hardship driver’s license in Florida. This would allow continued but limited driving privileges for the purpose of getting to and from your place of work. In order to do this, you must complete the entirety of a 12-hour long Advanced Driver Improvement Course. This is also something that a Florida traffic crime lawyer would be able to help you with.
Considerations Made Concerning Accident Victims
The guidelines for sentencing when a driver leaves the scene of a vehicle crash that injured a person are quite complex. If you are receiving a second-degree felony for leaving the scene when a person was seriously injured, you can receive anywhere between zero and fifteen years in jail.
One of the methods often used to determine the level of punishment is victim injury points. The more points a person is allocated, the longer the sentence will be. These points correspond to the level of injury the victim received in the vehicle crash.
However, this one of the reasons having access to a skilled lawyer is so important. This method of sentencing is designed specifically for a crime that caused an injury. If your vehicle was involved in an accident, that is not a crime. The criminal part is leaving the scene where the vehicle crashed. Therefore, your attorney could potentially argue that a sentence is unjust for utilizing this sentencing method.
However, it should also be considered that if your leaving the scene could have caused a delay in the victim receiving the medical treatment they needed, this method will be considered justified, especially if this delay caused the victim’s injuries to worsen.
Even if there is no way around receiving a guilty conviction, your lawyer can still help you in numerous ways. An aggressively formulated defense can take years off your sentence. Even if charges cannot be dismissed in their entirety, there is still a high chance of them being diminished if the right set of knowledge and persuasion is on hand.
What Are Some Defenses That Are Possible in a Hit and Run Case in Florida?
Thankfully, the lawyers here at The Law Place in Clearwater have an extensive history of dealing with failing to stop after inflicting injury cases just like yours.
This gives them personal access to a number of defensive precedents, plus numerous others relied upon by lawyers for years. Even if these defenses are unsuccessful at getting the charges against you dropped, they may be able to get your time in prison reduced from decades to five years, for example.
Plus, this is not an exhaustive list of potential defenses. The key details of your case, which are specific to you, will determine the exact approach any experienced attorney worth their salt will take in your defense. These can only be determined when you schedule a free consultation and free case evaluation with one of our Florida offices.
However, with this said, common hit and run defenses include:
- A lack of knowledge about your role in the accident.
- You may have been physically/mentally unable to actually report the crash or stop your vehicle through a combination of injuries or panic reactions.
- Plea deals will often be worked out to incorporate a number of different extenuating circumstances.
Contact The Law Place in Florida Today
Legal fees, as well as financial strains caused by auto insurance and financial struggles, stop many people from pursuing worthwhile legal defense. However, preventing permanent stains on your record is almost always cheaper in the long run, especially if you have a previous history of reckless driving or driving under the influence.
Call The Law Place in Florida today for a free consultation to find out how to stand the best chance at getting your charges either dismissed or dropped entirely. Our lines are open 24 hours a day, every day, and our calls are fully protected by the attorney-client relationship.