What is a hit-and-run?
In the State of Florida, the definition of a “hit-and-run,” also referred to as leaving the scene of an accident, is defined as a driver failing to remain at the site of a vehicle crash and failing to fulfill statutory duties when the accident involves property damage, bodily injury or death.
Can I be charged with leaving the scene of an accident?
Yes, in the State of Florida you can be charged with leaving the scene of an accident. There are three types of ‘Leaving the Scene of an Accident’ charges in Florida. These include:
(1) Damaging an Unattended Vehicle or Property (Florida Statue 316.063);
(2) Accidents Involving Occupied Vehicles or Attended Property (Florida Statute 316.061); and
(3) Accidents Causing Death or Personal Injury (Florida Statute 361.027).
What are the statutory requirements associated with a hit-and-run?
The statutory duties depend on whether property damage is involved or bodily injury or death.
If a hit-and-run accident involves only property damage to another car or object, Florida law dictates the following statutory duties:
- The driver must immediately stop his or her car at the scene or stay as close to it as possible;
- The driver must give the owner or operator in the other vehicle, his or her name, address, and registration number;
- If the other party requests it, the driver must provide his or her driver’s license number;
- The driver must give his or her license number, registration, address and any other information requested by the police;
- If the property that was damaged was unattended, the driver must find the property owner or attach information securely to the property, giving the driver’s name, address and registration number. The driver must also give his or her information and notify the nearest police department.
Bodily Injury or Fatality:
If a hit-and-run accident results in bodily injury or death, the statutory duties of a driver include:
- The driver must stop the vehicle either at the scene of the accident or as close as possible;
- The driver must also provide his or her name, address and vehicle registration number to the other driver;
- If the other driver requests it, the driver must provide his or her driver’s license;
- The driver must provide his or her driver’s license, registration, address and any other information to the police investigating the accident;
- If medical treatment is needed or if it is requested by the other person, the driver needs to give what is referred to as “reasonable assistance,” which can include making sure that the injured driver is taken to the hospital for treatment;
- If the other driver is not able to receive the above information due to injury, the driver who is not injured must report the crash to the local authorities.
What key elements must be proven by the prosecution in a hit-and-run case?
- The defendant was the driver of a car that was involved in an accident that resulted in: 1) property damage to another person; 2) bodily injury to another person; or 3) death to another person;
- The defendant either knew or should have known that he was involved in a crash;
- The defendant either knew or should have known about the damage, injury or death of the other person that was caused from the crash;
- The defendant willfully failed to stop and stay at the scene of the crash or failed to remain there until he or she had given the statutory required information to the other driver or occupant of the car, or police officer; or the defendant failed to give “reasonable assistance” to the injured person if it was necessary or requested by the injured person.
What are the penalties for a hit-and-run in Florida?
If the driver caused property damage and leaves the scene of the accident, he or she can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, which comes with a penalty of up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine. If bodily injuries resulted from a hit-and-run accident to another person, the driver can be charged with a second or third-degree felony. The driver can end up having his or her driver’s license revoked for at least three years, and the driver can be sentenced to up to five years in prison, along with a $5,000 fine. If a fatality results from the hit-and-run, the driver can be charged with a first-degree felony. The driver’s license can be revoked for a period of at least three years, and the driver can receive a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison, up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
What are some of the most common defenses to hit-and-run charges?
Several different defenses are available for a hit-and-run charge. These defenses can be used to either defeat the charge or minimize the consequences with it. The more common defenses include:
- Lack of knowledge that a crash happened;
- Lack of knowledge that the defendant’s car impacted another person or property;
- Disputes as to the identity of the driver involved;
- The fact that the defendant’s failure or inability was not willful but rather was a matter of circumstances;
- The defendant stopped as close as he or she possibly could under the circumstances, even though it was not at the exact location of impact;
- The other driver refused to take the identifying information offered by the defendant;
- The other driver’s behavior was so angry or belligerent that the defendant felt unsafe and had to leave the scene to contact law enforcement; or
- The driver believed that he or she did provide assistance that was “reasonable” within the meaning of Florida law.
Related Resources: https://www.flhsmv.gov/safety-center/driving-safety/hitrun/