Leaving the Scene of an Accident
In Florida, if you leave the scene of an accident, it is a criminal hit and run. Any driver who gets into an accident causing injuries, death, or property damage owes a duty to stay at the site of the crash and fulfill various duties. If the accident causes injuries to someone else, you are supposed to stop your car at the scene, provide your contact information and vehicle registration number to the other person involved, show your license if asked, give information to police investigators, and render reasonable assistance if another person asks for it or it is apparent that it is needed. If you are not injured, you are still supposed to report the accident. If you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident or even if you are being investigated before a charge is filed, you should consult an experienced St. Petersburg traffic crime attorney. At Hanlon Law, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of the accused.Leaving the Scene of an Accident
To establish leaving the scene of an accident, a prosecutor is supposed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you drove a vehicle involved in an accident that caused injuries or death to anybody or caused property damage to someone else. Also, the prosecutor must prove that you knew or should have known that you were involved in the crash, and you knew or should have known about the injuries or death of somebody else or the property damage caused to someone else. Finally, they must show that you willfully failed to stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and failed to stay there until you had given identifying information to the other driver, passenger, investigating police officer, or someone assisting with the vehicle, or you did not give reasonable assistance when the assistance seemed necessary or was sought.
Willful leaving of the scene means that you purposefully and intentionally left the scene. This is a crucial element. The penalties that may be imposed on you for a conviction depend on the injuries or death arising from the accident. Generally, if there are death or injuries, rather than just property damage, the court will subject you to a mandatory driver's license revocation. Hit and runs only involving property damage are usually second-degree misdemeanors, which means a maximum of 60 days incarcerated and a maximum fine of $500.
If you killed someone else, or the injuries to the other driver or a passenger were fatal, you can be charged with a first-degree felony. This means that you face a maximum of 30 years’ imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. If you leave a scene involving injuries or death, and you are found to have been driving under the influence (DUI), you face penalties such as a potential mandatory minimum prison term of two years.
You should not assume that a conviction is inevitable. There are certain strategies that may be available to avoid a conviction for leaving the scene of an accident. It can help to call us early in the process, while the case is being investigated. This allows us to make contact with the police and present what happened in the way that is most favorable to you. Depending on the circumstances, our St. Petersburg criminal lawyer may be able to dispute that you were the driver who left, argue that you did not know that a crash had happened, show that your failure to stop was not willful, show that the other driver became aggressive, such that you needed to escape him, or show that you did provide reasonable assistance. The elements of leaving the scene must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, so it is possible to raise a strong defense by showing a reasonable doubt. Sometimes it is possible for us to talk to the prosecutor to negotiate a plea deal.Explore Your Options with a Traffic Defense Attorney in St. Petersburg
If you are seeking an experienced and skillful attorney to defend you against charges of leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving, or another traffic crime, Hanlon Law may be able to represent you. Our founder, Will Hanlon, has provided tough and dedicated criminal defense representation since 1994. You can call Hanlon Law at 727.897.5413 or complete our online form.