Car accidents can be stressful and overwhelming. When a person is involved in a crash, he or she may panic and not know what to do next. In some cases, drivers may leave the scene of an accident. Although it may seem minor, leaving the site of a crash could mean criminal charges with harsh consequences.
In Florida, it is a criminal act to leave the scene of an auto accident, which is commonly known as a “hit and run.” Drivers are required to remain where the crash happened or in a safe place near the site to ensure those involved receive the medical attention necessary and that all information is available to promptly investigate the incident.
According to Florida Statute Section §316.062, the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash resulting in property damage, injury or death must provide information necessary for an insurance claim. This information could include:
• The driver’s name
• The driver’s address
• Vehicle registration number
• Driver’s license number
After a crash, the drivers involved should stop without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. For instance, if two drivers are involved in a minor rear-end accident or a fender bender accident, pulling over to the shoulder or to a nearby parking lot would be acceptable.
If a severely damaged vehicle is obstructing traffic and it is not considered drivable, the driver of such vehicle must make every reasonable effort to move the vehicle or have it moved so as not to obstruct the regular flow of traffic, according to Florida Statute Section §316.027(3).
If a crash results in property damage and the driver of one of the vehicles involved leave the scene, he or she could face criminal charges. If an occupied vehicle or any other attended property is damaged, he or she could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. This could include up to six months in jail, $500 in fines or both, according to Florida Statute Section §316.062.
However, if a driver leaves the scene of an accident where an injury occurred, the charges and the associated penalties could be much greater. If a driver involved in an accident suspects another person in the crash suffered a bodily injury, he or she must stop at the scene or in a safe, nearby location. He or she also must remain at the scene until aid is rendered.
Leaving the scene of an accident with bodily injury in Florida is considered a third-degree felony, according to Florida Statute Section § 316.027(2).This is punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both. Additionally, this could mean having a criminal record and a felony conviction.
As with a minor injury, if a person involved in a crash suffers a serious bodily injury, other drivers involved in the accident are expected to stop. If a person leaves the scene of an accident that results in serious bodily injury, he or she could face second-degree felony charges, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a fine up to $10,000 or both.
If a person is killed at the scene of an accident and a driver involved in the crash leaves, he or she could face some of the harshest penalties for a Florida traffic offense. According to Florida Statute Section §316.027(2)(c), this could be considered a first-degree felony.
A conviction for this first-degree felony offense could mean a mandatory minimum term of four years in prison. The person, however, still would face up to 30 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000 or both. If the driver was intoxicated at the time of the crash, he or she also could face a four-year mandatory sentencing.
Additionally, drivers could be ordered to pay restitution to victims for the damages or injuries involved in the crashes. Drivers also could face having their licenses revoked for at least three years. They also could be required to attend a department-approved driver improvement course relating to the rights of vulnerable road users relative to vehicles on the roadway.
Steven Bell is a criminal defense attorney with more than a decade of experience fighting for the rights of those facing criminal charges and various traffic violations. He is a founding partner at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. with offices in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. The firm represents clients against a plethora of misdemeanor and felony traffic offenses, including leaving the scene, DUI, reckless driving, racing on a highway and driving while suspended.