When people get into a motor vehicle accident, a common response is to panic. Panic often means that we can’t think clearly and make snap decisions that could have substantial consequences in the future.
Leaving the scene of an accident involving death is a serious criminal charge in the State of Florida and carries life-changing implications. If you are convicted of this first-degree felony, you could face up to 30 years of imprisonment, even if you are an upstanding citizen with no previous criminal record.
If you panicked or had a justifiable reason not to stop, such as it wasn’t safe to do so, all hope is not lost. Although the state aggressively prosecutes leaving the scene involving death, a highly skilled attorney will fight your charges and work tirelessly to protect your freedom.
The Law Place attorneys have a wealth of experience successfully defending clients in Orlando against leaving-the-scene charges. There is a fine line between a first-degree felony leaving the scene conviction and a second-degree misdemeanor. The Law Place attorneys are best placed to build the strongest defense possible to minimize your charges.
Do not let one mistake change the course of your life forever. If you are facing a charge of leaving the scene involving death, contact The Law Place today for a free consultation. Call an Orlando leaving the scene involving death lawyer today at (941)-444-4444.
What Should I Do If I Have Been in a Car Accident?
The most important thing to do if you have been involved in a traffic accident is to stay calm and contact emergency services. You are legally required to stop at the scene of an accident as close as safely possible to do so, regardless of how serious the accident may be.
Under Florida Statutes 316.062, you must render your name, address, and the registration number of the vehicle you were driving. You are also legally required to present your license or driver’s permit to any police officer attending the crash, anyone injured in the collision, or any person attending to a vehicle or damaged property in the accident.
It is important to remember that anything you say at the scene of an accident could be recorded and potentially used against you in a future criminal or civil case. Beyond what is required of you, do not discuss the details of the accident.
If The Accident Involved Property Damage
In addition to the standard requirements that apply to all motor vehicle accidents in Florida, if an accident includes property damage to another vehicle involved or object, there are further obligations. You are also legally required to notify the property owner of the accident if they are not already informed and provide your name, address, and registration number.
If the property damaged in the accident is not attended to by an operator or owner, you must locate the owner and provide the legally required information or attach a notice with the details. The notice should be attached securely in an obvious place on the vehicle or property that was damaged.
If The Accident Involved Injury Or Death
In an accident involving injury to another individual or even death, you must stop at the scene and provide your name, address, registration number, and driver’s license or permit to any police officer, other drivers, anyone injured, or anyone attending the accident.
In addition, if it is apparent that medical treatment is required, you must also provide ‘reasonable assistance’ to help the injured parties. This could include making arrangements to get the injured party to the relevant medical care they require, such as a physician or hospital.
If the other driver is not able to receive the information that must be provided, possibly due to their injuries, the non-injured driver must report the accident and their details to the nearest police authority.
Florida Definition of Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Leaving the scene of an accident is sometimes known as ‘hit and run’. Florida law defines leaving the scene of an accident when an individual fulfills two main criteria:
- When an individual is involved in a crash with another person’s property, this includes vehicles, buildings, and structures such as walls, and;
- The individual willfully leaves the scene of the crash without providing their name, driver’s license, and registration number to the property owner.
In circumstances where the owner is not readily contactable or locatable to provide your information, you are required to report the accident and your details to the nearest police station or law enforcement agency.
In Florida, leaving the scene of an accident that does not involve injury or death is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days in jail and a fine of $500. However, the severity of charges and the penalties you face may increase significantly if another individual is injured in the accident.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Serious Bodily Injury in Orlando
A leaving-the-scene charge, as described above, is made more severe if any individual involved in the accident suffers serious bodily injury. You may be charged with leaving the scene involving serious bodily injury if any person involved in the crash suffers a physical condition that carries a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or loss or impairment of the function of their body.
Leaving the scene involving bodily injury in Florida is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. However, if the injuries are more severe, a charge of leaving the scene involving serious bodily injury is a second-degree felony.
In Florida, the second-degree felony of leaving the scene involving serious bodily injury carries penalties of up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and a fine of up to $10,000. If convicted, it is likely that you will also have your driving license revoked.
In many traffic-related offenses, it is typical that, if convicted, the defendant is ordered to pay restitution to victims of personal injuries to cover their financial costs.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Death in Orlando
If you leave the scene of an accident that resulted in a fatality, you could be facing very serious charges in the State of Florida. Leaving the scene involving death is a first-degree felony, which carries lengthy prison sentences.
If there are additional factors at play in a case of leaving the scene involving death, such as if the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, this could result in a mandatory minimum prison term of two years.
Penalties for the first-degree felony of leaving the scene of a crash involving death include up to 30 years in prison, 30 years probation, and a fine of $10,000. In certain circumstances, when the act of leaving the scene contributed to the death of a victim, victim death points may also be included in the sentencing. This could increase the minimum prison sentence the defendant receives for the criminal offense.
If the victim’s family pursues a wrongful death lawsuit, then you may also be ordered to pay compensation.
Will I Lose My Driver’s License for Leaving the Scene of an Accident?
Florida statutes state that any person convicted of leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury or death will have their driver’s license revoked for a minimum of three years.
You may be able to request that your license is reinstated earlier for business or employment purposes or if you can prove that your license revocation is causing you serious hardship. However, you will not be able to apply for a hardship license until you have completed a 12-hour advanced driver improvement course.
Leaving the scene of an accident that does not involve injury to another person may not result in losing your license. However, you may receive points on your license, which could contribute to a driver’s license suspension if the points reach a certain threshold within five years.
What Is the Difference Between Leaving the Scene Involving Death and Vehicular Homicide?
For a prosecutor to establish the crime of leaving the scene of an accident involving death, they only need to prove that the defendant left the scene of the collision. They do not need to prove that the defendant caused the death themselves, just that death occurred in the accident.
A charge of vehicular homicide requires the state to prove that an individual practiced reckless operation of a vehicle, whereas the nature in which the vehicle was operated does that factor into a leaving-the-scene charge. There is also no element of willfully leaving the scene under vehicular homicide.
The two charges are separate in their own right and are not different degrees of the same offense. One conviction is not subsumed by the other greater offense, and a defendant could be convicted of both charges.
Other Common Charges Alongside Leaving the Scene
There can be a range of reasons that someone may not immediately stop following a motor vehicle accident. Many reasons could be innocent, such as the driver being unaware of the accident or it being unsafe to stop at the scene.
However, in some circumstances, a driver may fail to stop because they were driving under the influence, which would result in an additional charge if they were caught. Common charges that occur alongside a leaving the scene charge include the following:
- Driving under the influence (DUI).
- Reckless driving.
- Careless driving.
- Vehicular homicide.
How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help?
A charge of leaving the scene involving death is a serious felony in the State of Florida, and one that the state typically prosecutes aggressively. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be vital if you are to avoid a lengthy jail sentence, minimize the charges and associated penalties you are facing, and protect your freedom.
Defending Your Freedom
A skilled traffic accident lawyer has a wide range of potential defenses that they can utilize to fight your case. For example, your attorney may argue that you were physically unable to report the accident due to your own injuries. If you are physically incapacitated, you are exempt from the legal requirement to leave your details at the time of the accident.
Additionally, a charge of leaving the scene involving death requires the prosecution to prove that you did so ‘willfully’. Your attorney could argue that you had a lack of knowledge and awareness that an accident had occurred. This is often the case in situations with a light impact where you may not have felt the collision. If you were unaware of the accident, you could not have ‘willfully’ left the scene.
Similarly, a charge of leaving the scene involving death requires the prosecution to prove that you had justifiable reason to believe that a death had occurred. Without this proof, the most you can be convicted for is a second-degree misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident.
A reputable attorney with experience in leaving-the-scene cases will be well-versed and skillful in using such defenses to significantly reduce your charges and fight for lesser penalties. A conviction of leaving the scene involving death will permanently change your life and could see you spending many years behind bars. However, a charge does not necessarily have to mean a conviction.
There are many minor details and nuances in the different leaving-the-scene charges that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable double to secure a conviction. A skilled attorney can fight the prosecution on these small details and could be the difference between you receiving a misdemeanor or first-degree felony charge.
Contact The Law Place Leaving the Scene Attorneys Today!
At The Law Place, our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience fighting for our client’s rights in Orlando and central Florida in leaving-the-scene cases. We understand the severity of the charges you are facing, and we will fight aggressively to defend you and protect your freedom.
If you have been charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving death, contact our skilled lawyers as soon as possible to start building your defense. Effective legal representation could be the factor that decides whether you spend the next 30 years in prison or not.
Do not wait; call our legal team today at (941)-444-4444 for a free consultation and case evaluation.