Throughout the State of Florida, there are severe penalties in place for leaving the scene of a road accident. State law requires that if you have been involved in an accident, you must remain at the scene and provide assistance where needed. This is particularly the case when those involved have suffered a serious physical injury as a result of the collision.
Being convicted of this crime can result in having to pay huge fines, being imprisoned for a long period of time, and having a permanent stain on your criminal record. If you are convicted of a felony charge, your future job and education prospects, amongst many other things, will be seriously hindered.
If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges of leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in someone suffering a serious personal injury in St. Petersburg, Florida, you should seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Having the backing of an experienced criminal defense attorney can help prevent you from being convicted of a felony.
At The Law Place, we have over 75 years of combined experience in multiple practice areas, including hit and run cases. Our team of St. Petersburg criminal defense attorneys is here to help ensure that you receive the fairest possible outcome for your case. Our law firm offers a free consultation where you can receive legal assistance from one of our lawyers with no strings attached. The sooner you call us, the more time we have to build a strong criminal defense on your behalf.
Call us today to schedule a free consultation. Our lines are open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
What Does Florida Law Say About Leaving the Scene of an Accident?
Leaving the scene of an accident is classed as a crime under Florida Statute 316.061. This statute provides that in order to be charged with this crime, a person must have:
- Been in a motor vehicle collision or accident which involved the property of another individual. This property can include a vehicle, a building, or any other permanent structure.
- Intentionally left the scene of an accident without giving any personal information to either the other party involved or a police officer. This information includes their vehicle registration number, their name and contact details, their driver’s license, and their address.
If you have been involved in an accident and you are unable to locate the person who owns the property that has been damaged, you must contact the closest police station in order to report the accident. It is required that you provide a law enforcement officer with your personal information, including your vehicle information and details of the accident.
Car Accidents Involving Serious Personal Injury or Death
The law in St. Petersburg and all throughout the State of Florida sets out a number of requirements for an individual who has been involved in an accident which resulted in serious personal injury or death. Florida Statute 316.027 states that a driver must:
- Halt their vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so and as close to the scene of the accident as possible.
- Provide the other parties involved or a member of law enforcement with their personal details, including their name, address, driver’s license, phone number, and vehicle registration information.
- Provide reasonable medical assistance or aid to the party who has suffered injuries or has died. This includes arranging or providing transport to the closest medical facility in order for the injured person to be taken care of.
If you are in a situation where it is not possible for you to provide your personal information to the injured party or you are unable to take them to a hospital, the law requires that you contact a member of law enforcement immediately.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident in St. Petersburg, FL.
Depending on whether the hit-and-run accident resulted in personal injury, property damage, or death, the penalties you may face will vary. Similarly, the level of damage caused by the accident will impact the severity of your penalties. Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious bodily injury to another person often results in harsh penalties due to the seriousness of the crime. If you have been accused of this crime, we recommend speaking with a St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney who can help defend the charges brought against you.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident: Property Damage
Law in Florida provides that the crime of leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage carries with it a second-degree misdemeanor charge. The penalties for being convicted of a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida include:
- A maximum of 60 days in county jail.
- A fine not exceeding $500.
- A probation period of up to 6 months.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident: Injury
It is often the case that an accident on the road will result in some level of injury to the parties involved. If a person has been injured and you left the scene, Florida law states that you will be charged with a third-degree felony. Sentencing guidelines in Florida provide that this crime will be punished as a level 5 criminal offense.
Being convicted of a felony in the third degree can result in the following penalties:
- A maximum prison sentence of 5 years.
- A probation period not exceeding 5 years.
- Fines of up to $5,000.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident: Serious Bodily Injury
If you have left the scene of an accident which resulted in the other party being seriously injured, the penalties you face will be more severe. Law in Florida provides that a crime of this nature carries with it a second-degree felony charge. As provided by sentencing guidelines, this crime is punished as a level 6 criminal offense.
Florida Statute 316.027 defines a serious injury as an injury that:
“Consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.”
The courts in Florida consider leaving the scene of an accident involving an injury of this nature as a serious crime, and the penalties can be harsh. A conviction of this crime could result in the following penalties:
- A maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
- A probation period of up to 15 years.
- A fine not exceeding $10,000.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident: Death
Failing to remain at the scene of an accident that resulted in another person dying is considered a serious crime in Florida, which carries with it first-degree felony charges. As provided by the sentencing guidelines in Florida, this crime will be charged as a level 7 criminal offense.
A judge in St. Petersburg may impose the following penalties on you if you have been convicted of a felony of the first degree:
- A mandatory minimum imprisonment term of 4 years.
- A maximum prison term of 30 years.
- A probation period of up to 30 years.
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
Driver’s License Revocation
If you are convicted of the crime of leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death, injuries, or serious injuries, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV) will revoke your driver’s license for a minimum period of three years, as stated under Florida Statute 316.027 and Florida Statute 322.0261. In order to be able to drive again, you will have to obtain a hardship license which can only be obtained by taking part in a 12-hour advanced driver improvement course.
The Impact of a Felony Conviction
Felony convictions are the highest level of criminal charges in Florida. A conviction of this nature will impact the rest of your life and leave a permanent stain on your criminal record. There are some rights that you will lose automatically following a conviction of this nature, including:
- Purchasing and possessing a firearm.
- Traveling outside of the US.
- Getting employed in certain professions.
- Carrying out jury duty.
In addition to the automatic rights you lose, a felony conviction may impact your future education prospects and your ability to sign a rental contract, amongst many other things. If you have been charged with a felony, we recommend speaking to a car accident attorney immediately. They can build a strong defense on your behalf to prevent the rest of your life from being impacted by a felony conviction.
Personal Injury Considerations
In the State of Florida, a court may be required to impose a minimum sentence of imprisonment due to a victim’s personal injury points. It is common for these points to be used when a defendant’s negligence resulted in the victim being seriously physically injured.
When a driver has been charged with leaving the scene of a car accident, this charge is completely separate from the injuries caused by the collision itself. This means that personal injury points will not automatically come into play when there is a criminal charge of failing to remain at the accident scene, as the victim’s injuries were caused by the accident itself. However, in some instances, it is possible for these points to come into play if a prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant’s failure to remain at the scene resulted in the victim’s injuries becoming worse.
If it can be proven that a defendant failed to give reasonable assistance or call emergency services, and the victim’s physical state deteriorated as a result, the court can take injury points into consideration when sentencing, often resulting in a mandatory sentence being imposed.
In order to prevent a victim’s injury points from impacting your sentencing, it is important that you seek legal advice from a lawyer as soon as possible. They can help prove that you leaving the scene did not cause the victim’s injuries to become worse and prevent a mandatory prison sentence from being imposed.
Possible Defenses to Leaving the Scene of an Accident
It is important that you have a strong criminal defense in order to prevent the rest of your life from being impacted by felony charges. Depending on the particular facts of the crash and your situation, an attorney will create a defense tailored to you. However, there are two primary defenses that are often used by lawyers, which are a total lack of knowledge and being physically unable to report the traffic crash.
As provided by law in St. Petersburg, a person who leaves the scene of a crash must be aware of the car accident happening. If you have no knowledge of the crash happening, you cannot be charged with the crime of leaving the scene of an accident. It is possible that a driver only tipped the side of another vehicle in traffic and was unaware that this caused an accident. When a driver has been seriously injured as a result, the burden is on the state to prove that the accused driver had actual or constructive knowledge of the crash happening. If the state is unable to prove this, it is possible for the charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor offense.
Another defense that is commonly used by lawyers in leaving the scene of car accident cases is that the accused was physically unable to report the crash at the time. If you were injured as a result of the accident and thus unable to give your name, address, and registration number, the law spares you from any criminal charges. When a crash resulted in the other driver being seriously injured, it is often the case that you were injured also. A lawyer can investigate your case to establish whether this defense can be used in your particular situation.
Things to Do at the Scene of an Accident
Apart from the criminal charges you may face if you leave the scene of a traffic accident, doing so will also affect your ability to file an injury claim for any injuries that you have suffered. This is why it is important that you take the following steps at the scene of a crash:
- Remain at the scene – Stop your vehicle as close to the crash scene as possible and comply with any police there. It is understandable that you may be panicked, but you will face criminal charges for leaving the scene.
- Check for injuries – It is important that you check to see if you or the other party have suffered any physical injuries. If those involved have been injured, you should seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
- Report the crash – The law requires that a severe accident is reported to the police or a member of law enforcement.
- Get witness information – It is important that you get the name, address, and registration details of any witnesses involved.
- Take pictures – You should take photos of the scene, including any injuries and property damage.
- Contact your insurance company – The law in Florida requires that you contact your insurance company immediately following a crash. We recommend speaking with an attorney prior to contacting them as they will often try to establish fault on your part.
- Call a lawyer – If you have been in a car crash that resulted in another person being seriously injured, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you contact an attorney, the more time they have to investigate your case and build you a strong criminal defense.
Contact The Law Place Today
If you are a driver in St. Petersburg and have been charged with leaving the scene of a crash involving serious bodily injury, then you should seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Criminal charges of this nature carry with them harsh penalties and have the potential to affect the rest of your life, including your right to vote, your future job prospects, and education prospects, amongst many other things.
Here at The Law Place, we have over 75 years of combined experience in multiple practice areas, including many criminal traffic cases. Our team of criminal defense lawyers has built up a strong attorney-client relationship through their dedication and their proven track record in achieving the best results for clients. We offer a free consultation where you can speak to an attorney from our firm regarding your case. Our priority is ensuring that you receive the best possible outcome for your criminal offense case in St. Petersburg.
Call today to schedule a free consultation. Our lines are open 24/7.