According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), almost 25 percent of Florida crashes involve a hit and run (also known as fleeing the scene of an accident). Although most hit and run accidents result only in property damage, hit and run crashes can be deadly. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that nationally, more than one hit and run crash occurs every minute, resulting in a staggering 2,049 deaths in 2016. Most fatalities in a hit and run crashes are with pedestrians or bicyclists.
Why Some Drivers Flee the Scene and Don’t Stop
In some cases, a driver does not realize they hit something or someone. However, in most accidents, the driver simply wants to avoid responsibility, because:
- Their driver’s license is suspended, and they are not permitted to drive
- The driver lacks proper insurance
- The driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- They have committed a serious motor vehicle offense
Depending on whether the motor vehicle accident caused only property damage, or resulted in bodily injury or death, a hit and run driver faces significant criminal penalties. Fleeing the scene of an accident, without stopping to exchange insurance, registration and contact information, calling and waiting for the police, and rendering aid if there’s an injury, according to Florida Statutes 316.062, it is against the law.
If the car accident causes property damage only, a driver’s failure to stay at the scene is a misdemeanor that is punishable by a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.
If the accident results in a personal injury or a fatality, then leaving the scene of the accident can be classified as a felony. This is punishable by driver’s license revocation for three years, a $5,000 to $10,000 fine, and between four to 30 years in jail, etc).
Defenses to Hit and Run Charges
If you are charged with the crime of leaving the scene of an accident, the prosecutor (State of Florida) must prove intent. Honest mistakes do happen. There are some defenses to explain or lessen (mitigate) a hit and run charge:
- The driver didn’t know he was involved in a crash
- Mistaken identity of the driver
- It was unsafe to pull over
- The other driver was angry, hostile, or uncooperative
- When rendering aid (assistance), the driver acted reasonably
Even if you don’t have a solid defense, you should still consult with an experienced attorney. For example, in misdemeanor cases, your attorney can contact the prosecution early in your case to negotiate a lesser charge (to avoid or lessen jail time and fines).
Involved in a Hit and Run Car Accident? Call a St. Petersburg, Florida, Criminal Attorney Today for Help
If you or someone you know was involved in a hit and run motor vehicle accident, speak with an attorney right away. This type of charge often carries serious consequences. Trust the experienced, caring professionals at Khonsari Law Group. Call us today at (727) 269-5300, or contact us online. Our experienced team will make you our priority and put your mind at ease. We are seasoned criminal defense attorneys and will use our best efforts and resources to protect your rights.