Under Florida law, it is a criminal offense to leave the scene of an accident without performing the statutory duties required. This means that any unlawful departure from the site of a vehicle crash can lead to a misdemeanor or even felony charges, depending on the nature and severity of the accident.
Hit and runs in Florida are a serious matter. It is important to be aware of the laws surrounding this offense in case you are ever charged with leaving the scene of an accident.
What Does It Mean to Leave the Scene of an Accident?
Leaving the scene of an accident, also known as a “hit and run” in Florida, is defined as the driver’s failure to stay at the site of the motor vehicle crash to fulfill their statutory duties. This applies whenever the crash involves damage to property, bodily injury, or death.
According to Florida’s Statute 316.061, it is a crime to leave the scene of an accident when:
- The person is involved in a crash with another person’s property (including car or building)
- The person willfully leaves the scene of the crash without providing proper information to the owner of the property (including name, address, driver’s registration information, and driver’s license number)
In this case, if the property owner is not present to receive the information, the law requires you to leave the information in a readily visible area on the car and report the accident to your nearest law enforcement agency.
For accidents that only involve damage to property, including a vehicle, building or object, the driver has a legal obligation to perform the following duties:
- Stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash or as close to the scene as possible.
- Notify the owner/operator of the vehicle or damaged property of the driver’s name, address, and vehicle registration number.
- Show driver’s license if requested.
- Provide pertinent information to reporting officers, including license, registration, and address.
- If the damaged property is unattended (such as with a parked car or empty house), locate the property owner or securely attach the information in a conspicuous place on the property with driver’s name, address, and registration number. The driver must also notify local law enforcement.
For accidents that involve bodily injury or death, the statutory obligations are a bit different. You must:
- Stop the vehicle at the crash or as close to the site of the crash as possible.
- Notify the owner/operator of the driver’s name, address, and vehicle registration number.
- Show driver’s license if requested.
- Provide information to reporting police offers.
- If medical treatment is needed, or if the other person requests medical treatment, you must render “reasonable assistance” to make arrangements for the person to get to a physician, hospital, or surgeon for medical treatment. In other words, it’s your duty to call an ambulance if the other person is hurt.
- If the other driver cannot receive the above information, the non-injured person must report this crash to local law enforcement.
Penalties of Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Florida
In Florida, those who are charged with a hit and run may face a variety of different penalties. These penalties will be determined by the nature and severity of the damage caused by the accident.
Accidents With Injury
If there is a personal injury to another person, this offense becomes a felony of the third-degree. Penalties for this charge include up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation along with a $5,000 fine.
Accidents With Death
Leaving an accident that involves the death of another person is classified as a first-degree felony. Penalties are up to 30 years in prison along with a $10,000 fine. All drivers are also subject to a mandatory license revocation.
If the person charged with a hit and run is found to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash, they are subject to a mandatory minimum term of 2 years in prison.
Accidents With Damaged Property
Leaving an accident that only involved damaged property is a second-degree misdemeanor. Penalties are up to 60 days in jail along with a $500 fine.
Example Hit and Run Scenarios
Hit and runs are not all the same. They depend on the unique scenarios involved. Here are two examples of what a hit and run accident might look like.
John is on his phone while driving. Because he is not looking, he runs through a stop sign and hits Deborah’s car as she was legally passing through the intersection. Deborah’s car runs off the road and hits a road sign.
Rather than stopping to help Deborah and fulfill his statutory duties, John sees that Deborah is moving around in her car and drives away. Deborah is well enough to act quickly, taking photos of John in his car as he drives away.
A few weeks later, John is charged and arrested for leaving the scene of an accident. He may face heavy fines or even jail time even though Deborah was not severely injured. A criminal defense attorney can help defend John in court to ensure he is not given a penalty disproportionate to the offense.
Mary is driving around a lake that is popular among pedestrians and bikers. She is distracted by a bird flying over the lake, and runs her car off the road, hitting a cyclist. Instead of getting out of the car, Mary fears that her license will be taken away because of the points she has already sustained previously.
The cyclist, Tim, spends several days in the hospital following the accident to treat his severe injuries. Because of witness testimonies, they are able to track Mary down. Tim files a lawsuit against Mary for the damages he sustained, and the court rules in Tim’s favor.
Mary must now pay all of the damages Tim requested in addition to a fine for intentionally inflicting emotional distress.
Hit and Run Attorney in Florida
Have you been charged with leaving the scene of an accident? Have you recently left an accident scene and are worried about what’s to come? You need an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights in court. Understand your rights and receive the best result possible with the help of the attorney at Mike G Law.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.