In Tampa, leaving the scene of an accident, often referred to as a “hit and run,” is a serious criminal offense that carries severe legal implications. If you’re involved in an accident, whether it involves only property damage, personal injuries, or even a fatality, Florida law mandates you to stop your vehicle and follow certain legal obligations. Failure to adhere to these can result in hefty fines, imprisonment, the suspension of your driver’s license, and a permanent mark on your criminal record.
Dealing with the aftermath of a motor vehicle crash can be daunting and complicated. But if you’ve been accused of leaving the scene, your situation has just become significantly more complex and fraught with potential legal pitfalls. This is where an experienced criminal defense attorney becomes crucial. A seasoned attorney understands the Florida statutes, the potential defenses, and the intricacies of the state attorney’s office’s prosecution strategy. They can assist you in navigating through this complex process, ensuring your rights are protected at every turn.
The Law Place is home to a team of dedicated attorneys who have a wealth of experince in hit and run cases. With over 75 years of combined experience, we stand ready to fight for you and ensure you get the best possible outcome. If you or a loved one find yourself in such a predicament, don’t wait. Every moment counts in a criminal investigation.
We are available 24/7 to provide you the legal support you need. Remember, in the face of such serious charges, you should never face it alone. We are here to help.
Understanding Hit and Run Accidents in Florida
A “hit and run” accident, as defined under Florida law, occurs when a driver involved in a motor vehicle crash intentionally leaves the scene without fulfilling the legal obligations mandated by the Florida Statutes. This act becomes a criminal offense, irrespective of who was at fault for the accident. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident, charges can range from a second-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree felony.
Accidents Involving Only Property Damage
A hit and run accident involving property damage occurs when the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash results in damage to either a vehicle or other property belonging to someone else, and the driver fails to stop immediately at the scene. The driver must provide his or her driver’s license and vehicle registration number to the other party or leave a written notice with this information if the property owner is not present. Failure to adhere to these duties can result in a second-degree misdemeanor charge.
Accidents Involving Injury
If a hit and run accident involves personal injury to another person, the charges are significantly more severe. Florida law requires the driver to stop his or her vehicle immediately at the scene and provide reasonable assistance to the injured person, including arranging for medical treatment if it’s apparent that treatment is necessary or if the injured person requests assistance. Leaving the scene of an accident involving injury is a third-degree felony under Florida law.
Accidents Involving Serious Bodily Injury or Death
When a hit and run accident involves serious bodily injury or death, the legal ramifications intensify dramatically. Alongside stopping at the scene, providing information, and rendering aid, the driver must also immediately report the accident to the nearest law enforcement agency. Leaving the scene of an accident involving death or serious bodily injury is considered a first-degree felony, potentially leading to a mandatory minimum prison sentence if convicted.
The Legal Obligations After an Accident
Under Florida law, drivers involved in a motor vehicle crash are required to immediately stop at the scene or as close as possible without obstructing traffic more than necessary. This obligation stands regardless of whether the accident involves only property damage, personal injury, serious bodily injury, or death. Let’s break down the legal obligations based on these different scenarios.
In the event of an accident involving property damage, the driver must stop and either locate the property owner or leave a written notice containing the driver’s contact and insurance information at a conspicuous place on the damaged property. This notice should also include a brief description of the incident. The driver must also notify the nearest police department or law enforcement agency.
If the accident causes injury to another person, the driver’s responsibilities increase. In addition to the requirements listed above, the driver must provide reasonable assistance to the injured person. This could include calling an ambulance or arranging for medical treatment if the injured person is unable to do so. Failure to comply with these obligations constitutes a criminal offense, escalating to a third-degree felony.
Serious Bodily Injury or Death
Accidents that result in serious bodily injury or death carry the most stringent legal obligations. If a person involved in the accident is incapacitated or requests assistance, the driver must make immediate arrangements for medical aid. Leaving the scene under such circumstances without providing the necessary aid or reporting the incident to the nearest law enforcement agency constitutes a first-degree felony.
Reporting to Law Enforcement
Florida statutes mandate that any driver involved in a motor vehicle crash that results in injury, death, or property damage exceeding $500 must report the incident to the local police department, county sheriff, or Florida Highway Patrol. If the crash occurred on a municipality’s streets, the driver should report the accident to the city police department.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Tampa, FL
Leaving the scene of an accident, also known as a “hit and run,” is a serious offense under Florida law. The penalties associated with this crime vary, depending largely on the severity of the accident and the damage or injuries caused. Let’s delve into the potential consequences:
Crash Involving Property Damage
If the accident involves only property damage and the driver leaves the scene without fulfilling their legal obligations, they commit a second-degree misdemeanor. A conviction for this offense can lead to a penalty of up to 60 days in county jail and a fine of up to $500.
Crash Involving Injury
Leaving the scene of an accident involving injury is a third-degree felony under Florida law. The penalties for this offense include up to five years in state prison or five years of probation, and a fine of up to $5,000. Additionally, the defendant will have his or her driver’s license revoked.
Crash Involving Serious Bodily Injury
If the accident causes serious bodily injury and the driver leaves the scene, it constitutes a second-degree felony. Penalties include up to 15 years in prison or on probation and a fine of up to $10,000. As with cases involving injury, the driver’s license will be revoked.
Crash Involving Death
The most severe penalty applies if a driver leaves the scene of an accident involving death. This offense is a first-degree felony and can result in up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The driver’s license will be permanently revoked.
Beyond these direct legal penalties, individuals convicted of leaving the scene of an accident may also face indirect consequences. These can include a permanent mark on their criminal record, increased insurance premiums, loss of employment opportunities, and potential civil lawsuits from victims or their families.
With so much at stake, it is crucial to engage the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney to navigate the complex legal process. A seasoned lawyer from The Law Place will not only provide experienced legal representation but also work diligently to protect your rights and interests.
The Role of a Criminal Defense Attorney in a Hit and Run Case
Facing charges for leaving the scene of an accident can be overwhelming, but it is important to remember that you do not have to navigate this challenging time alone. An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide crucial guidance and representation to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Let’s explore their role in detail:
Interacting with Law Enforcement Agencies
In a hit and run case, the investigating police officers and the nearest law enforcement agency are crucial players. Your attorney can help manage interactions with these authorities, ensuring that you comply with the law without inadvertently incriminating yourself.
Negotiating with the State Attorney’s Office
The state attorney’s office is responsible for deciding which charges, if any, to file in a case. A skilled criminal defense attorney can negotiate with this office, presenting evidence and arguments that may lead to lesser charges or even the dismissal of charges.
Arguing Reasonable Doubt in Court
If your case goes to trial, your attorney will aim to establish a reasonable doubt about your guilt. This could involve questioning the credibility of evidence, identifying procedural errors, or presenting alternative explanations for the events in question.
Handling Prior Convictions
If you have a prior conviction on your criminal record, this can complicate your hit and run case. An experienced attorney understands how to handle these complex situations and will work to prevent your past from unduly influencing your present case.
Seeking Lesser Penalties
Depending on the circumstances, your attorney may be able to argue for lesser penalties, such as probation instead of prison time. This is particularly important in hit and run cases, where penalties can include serious fines and significant periods of incarceration.
What to Do If You’ve Left the Scene of an Accident
Navigating the aftermath of an accident can be stressful, and in the heat of the moment, it’s possible that you may not follow the exact steps required by law. If you’ve left the scene of an accident, whether it resulted in property damage, personal injuries, or even death, here are some crucial steps to take:
- Stay Calm and Don’t Panic – The first thing you should do is stay calm. Understandably, the situation might be overwhelming, but panicking can lead to irrational decisions that could worsen the situation.
- Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Immediately – If you’ve left the scene of an accident, it’s crucial to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Leaving the scene of an accident, especially an accident involving injury or death, is a criminal offense under Florida law, and you could be facing a criminal investigation. An experienced attorney can provide you with the necessary legal advice and help you navigate the legal process effectively. They can also liaise with the nearest law enforcement agency on your behalf.
- Be Honest with Your Lawyer – Your attorney can only help you if they have all the facts. Be honest and transparent about what happened. Did you panic? Were you unaware that you had to stop? Did you not realize there was damage or injury? All this information can play a critical role in your defense strategy.
- Do Not Discuss the Incident with Anyone but Your Attorney – It’s crucial to avoid discussing the accident or your case with anyone other than your attorney. This includes law enforcement officers, insurance adjusters, and even friends and family. Anything you say could potentially be used against you.
- Cooperate with the Investigation – If a criminal investigation is initiated, it’s crucial to cooperate fully under the guidance of your attorney. Failing to do so could lead to further charges.
What Sets The Law Place Apart
The Law Place is not just another law firm. We are a team of experienced and dedicated attorneys with a proven track record in handling various criminal defense cases, including hit and run incidents. Our unique approach sets us apart from others in several ways:
- Team Approach – At The Law Place, we firmly believe that two heads are better than one. As a client, you benefit from the collective knowledge and experience of our entire team. This means your case will be viewed from multiple angles, ensuring a comprehensive defense strategy.
- Free Consultation – We understand the stress and uncertainty that comes with being involved in a hit and run case. That’s why we offer a free initial consultation to understand your situation better and to provide you with the necessary legal advice.
- Dedicated Attorney – While we work as a team, we also assign a dedicated attorney to your case. This ensures personalized attention and a single point of contact for all your needs.
- Extensive Experience – With over 75 years of combined experience, we have handled cases in almost every Florida County, as well as various Federal Courts. We stay up to date with the law and continuously sharpen our advocacy skills.
- Highly Rated Attorneys – Many of the attorneys in our firm are AVVO 10.0 rated – the highest possible rating on the site, based on associations, trial skills, awards, length of practice, and client reviews.
- Award-Winning Team – Our attorneys have been recognized for their excellence. For instance, Attorney David Haenel has received an award from the State of Florida for his knowledge of DUI law, and Attorney AnneMarie Rizzo is pursuing advanced training to be a scientist-lawyer from the University of Florida.
- Passionate Advocates – We are more than just lawyers. We are advocates who fight fiercely for our clients. Attorney Stephen Higgins is known for his intense preparation and passionate results, and attorney Darren Finebloom, a former professional soccer player, brings the same energy to the courtroom.
At The Law Place, your case is our priority. We are there for you 100 percent as we pursue your case. Trust us to guide you through this challenging time and fight for your rights.
Leaving The Scene of an Accident Tampa, FAQ
If I’ve left the scene of an accident, can a police officer or law enforcement officer still charge me?
Yes, leaving the scene of an accident is a serious crime and law enforcement officers can still charge you even if you’ve fled the scene. The crime can potentially be traced back to you through various investigative methods. It’s crucial to consult with a criminal defense lawyer immediately to ensure your rights are protected and to navigate the legal complexities of such a situation.
What is the first thing I should do after a hit and run accident?
The first thing you should do is seek safety and medical attention if necessary. Then, try to gather as much information as possible about the vehicle that fled the scene – the make, model, color, or even partial license plate. Contact the nearest law enforcement agency immediately to report the incident.
If I accidentally hit a parked car and left the scene, am I guilty of a hit and run?
Under Florida law, you’re required to leave your contact information in a conspicuous place if the property owner isn’t present. Leaving without doing so could potentially result in a hit and run charge, even if the accident only resulted in minor property damage.
I left the scene of an accident out of panic but want to turn myself in. What should I do?
If you’ve left the scene of an accident, it’s crucial to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. They can guide you on the appropriate steps to take and protect your legal rights during the process.
Can I still be charged with a hit and run if I wasn’t at fault for the accident?
Yes. The legality of leaving the scene of an accident isn’t dependent on who caused the accident. Even if you weren’t at fault, leaving the scene without fulfilling your obligations under Florida law can result in hit and run charges.
Can a hit and run charge be expunged from my record?
This depends on various factors, including your overall criminal history and the details of your case. In some instances, it may be possible to expunge a hit and run conviction from your record. This is another area where an experienced criminal defense attorney can provide valuable advice and assistance.
Don’t Navigate a Hit and Run Case Alone: Get The Legal Help You Need Today in Tampa, FL
Navigating the intricate landscape of hit and run laws in Florida can be complex and challenging. Whether you’re dealing with an accident involving property damage, bodily injury, or death, understanding your rights and responsibilities is crucial. This understanding is your first line of defense when you find yourself facing serious allegations.
Equally important is having an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney by your side. A qualified attorney can serve as your advocate, providing vital guidance and representation during such a challenging time. With a firm understanding of Florida law and criminal investigations, your attorney can help ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive a fair trial.
Facing a hit and run charge can be overwhelming, but remember, you’re not alone. The experienced team at The Law Place is ready to fight for you. With over 75 years of combined experience, a team-based approach, and a commitment to providing personalized, high-quality legal services, we’re uniquely positioned to help you navigate this difficult time.