In Florida, drivers are required to remain at the scene of any crash that involves property damage, injury or death until his or her statutory duties are fulfilled. Failure to do so can result in a charge of “leaving the scene of accident,” which is also sometimes referred to as a “ hit-and-run.”
Despite the fact that this can result in serious felony charges, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reports there are approximately 92,000 hit-and-run crashes in Florida annually. These resulted in 19,000 instances of bodily injury – 1,200 of those serious. Pedestrians and bicyclists are disproportionately involved, with 1 in every 4 pedestrian accident resulting in a driver fleeing the scene. However, approximately 80 percent of all hit-and-run crashes result only in property damage.
At The Ansara Law Firm, our criminal defense attorneys in Fort Lauderdale do agree with law enforcement’s characterization of a hit-and-run as taking the situation, “From Bad To Worse,” meaning a crash is bad, but fleeing the scene can result in much more significant penalties for a defendant. In fact, it could mean a first-degree felony – and up to 30 years in prison - for someone who takes off following a fatal crash.
The good news is that with the help of an experienced hit-and-run defense attorney, the charges may be reduced or even dismissed. Even if the case results in a conviction, the presentation of mitigating circumstances by a skilled defense lawyer can often result in reduced penalties.Statutory Requirements Following an Accident
Anytime there is a motor vehicle accident, the drivers involved have certain obligations they must meet before they can lawfully leave the scene. The extent of those obligations will depend on the kind of crash.
In crashes involving just Property Damage, F.S. 316.061 – 316.063 requires drivers must:
In crashes involving Bodily Injury or Death, F.S. 316.062 – 316.027 requires drivers must:
It’s important to note these requirements apply regardless of whether who is at-fault for the crash. Often, determinations of fault are left up to the insurance companies or courts anyway (and even then, only after extensive investigation), so those involved aren’t necessarily in a position to say who was at-fault. That’s why the law requires these actions of all drivers involved.Penalties for Leaving the Scene
The punishment for leaving the scene of an accident in Florida will depend on whether this was a crash involving solely property damage or whether there was injury, serious injury or death.
Hit-and-run convictions in accidents that involve injury or death all include the loss of license for a minimum of three years.Defenses to Leaving the Scene of a Crash
There are a number of defense strategies we may employ in Leaving the Scene of an Accident cases. It’s imperative to explore each of these, given the severity of the possible penalties upon conviction.
Even in the event that one of these defenses is not an option, this kind of a charge doesn’t necessarily have to result in a conviction. In some cases, early contact with prosecutors can result in negotiation of lesser charges or some other more lenient solution – potentially one that avoids a prison term.Why You Need an Attorney
In all hit-and-run accident cases, defendants need an attorney. Even while the case is in the investigatory stages of the case, our attorneys can speak with police, prevent our client from making damaging statements to law enforcement and present certain facts to investigators in a light that would be most favorable to our client.
When charges are pursued anyway, we can reach out to prosecutors to see whether a favorable plea agreement can be reached. In cases where prosecutors are not open to negotiation, our team will work tirelessly to ensure all available legal options and defenses are explored and our client’s rights are respected throughout the process.
Contact the experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (877)-ARREST-0 (277-3780).