You may have decided to leave the scene of your accident for a number of reasons. You might have panicked in the instant, and pressing the gas was your immediate reaction. Maybe you had alcohol or drugs in the car or thought you'd be charged with DUI if you stayed on scene. Getting in an accident and leaving the location does not necessarily make you a criminal, but it is a criminal offense in Florida. As with any crime, you should take your criminal defense seriously. That starts by hiring a hit-and-run defense attorney in Florida. Weinstein Legal provides proactive criminal defense for individuals who have been charged or are under investigation for hit and run. Call now to speak to an attorney.
Common Causes of Hit-and-Run Accidents
There are several reasons why someone flees the scene of an accident:
- Panic – Getting in an accident is traumatic, and it's normal to have a small freak out and drive away. Once the driver is committed to that course of action, it might feel difficult to go back.
- Avoiding Arrest – If the driver is drunk or has a controlled substance in their car, they might think it's better to take their chances with a hit-and-run charge than to go to jail for other crimes.
- Fear of Violence – If the other party exhibits violence or aggression, the driver may flee to avoid an attack.
- Seeking Medical Attention – If a driver is injured in an accident, they may flee to get to the hospital instead of waiting for an ambulance to come to the scene.
- Exigent Circumstances – Sometimes, drivers believe that the urgency of their original purpose outweighs the legal requirement to remain on scene.
It should be noted that law enforcement officers and the court may consider your reason for leaving the scene of an accident when deciding about making an arrest or sentencing. However, you should not try to talk your way out of an arrest by offering explanations. This may end up backfiring on you and make your attorney's job more difficult. Contact a Florida criminal defense attorney to discuss the best course of action for your hit-and-run accident case.
Penalties for Hit and Run in Florida
Florida statute 316.061 requires a driver involved in an accident to remain on the scene until they've fulfilled their obligations under the law. If the accident resulted in property damage in excess of $500 or any injuries, they are required to wait until the police arrive. Leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offense in Florida. The penalties are as follows:
- Hit and Run with Property Damage but No Injuries – Second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
- Hit and Run with Non-Serious Bodily Injury – Third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.
- Hit and Run with Serious Bodily Injury – Second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
- Hit and Run with Death to Another Party – First-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
You will also accrue six points on your license if you're convicted of leaving the scene of the accident, in addition to any points you receive for citations associated with the accident.
Tips to Avoid Mistakes After a Hit-and-Run Accident
If you're charged with a hit and run, you may be facing fines, jail or prison, points on your license, and an insurance rate hike. In addition, you will have a criminal record that can be a bar to employment or educational opportunities. A good criminal defense lawyer, however, can help mitigate the damage from your arrest. The following information is not legal advice. To get legal representation, contact a criminal defense lawyer in your area.
Do not flee from the police – It's one thing to flee the scene of an accident; it's another to lead the police on a chase. This is a separate felony charge, and it makes your actions surrounding the hit and run more difficult to defend in court.
Do not lie to the police – You have the right to remain silent, and you should exercise that right. If you do speak to the police, however, do not lie. This could invite additional charges.
Don't wait to talk to a lawyer – You do not need to be charged with a crime to speak to an attorney. It's very likely that the police have your tag or vehicle description. It's better to discuss your options prior to them showing up at your door. Your attorney can speak to the police on your behalf. If you're wanted for the hit and run, they can arrange for your surrender.
What Are the Common Defenses of Hit and Run?
Your hit-and-run attorney will weigh your options with you. These are some common defenses and legal strategies that have proven effective.
Exigent Circumstances – Your lawyer will argue that you had an emergency that prevented you from remaining on the scene of the crash. This is a more effective defense if the accident was minor and didn't involve injuries.
Seeking Immediate Medical Attention – You may have realized that you were injured and could not afford to wait for paramedics to arrive. Naturally, this defense works best if you have medical records to show that you drove straight to the hospital after the accident.
Fear of Violence – Your safety is your first priority. If another party is violent, you're under no obligation to remain on the scene and risk an attack. If there is an independent witness who can corroborate your account, this defense has an excellent chance of working.
Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer
Leaving the scene of an accident is a risky proposition. In many cases, a witness will obtain your vehicle description, physical description, type of damage on your car, and even your license plate number. It's only a matter of time before the police find you, so don't wait to speak to an attorney.
For years, Weinstein Legal has been providing effective criminal defense to individuals accused of crimes. If you've unlawfully left the scene of an accident, it's essential for you to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. If it occurred in the Orlando, Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach area, reach out to attorney Matt Shafran of Weinstein Legal. All conversations with attorney Shafran are protected under attorney-client privilege, so call today.