Commonly called “Hit and Run,” Florida law requires you to A) not run, and B) provide specific information to the owner of the damaged property. If you do “run” you will be charged with a Second Degree Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Your Obligations When Involved in a Crash
Under Florida law, if you are involved in a accident that damages another vehicle or property (such as a mailbox, road sign, etc), you must immediately stop at the scene of the accident (or as close to the accident as possible) without obstructing traffic. You have to remain there long enough to provide the following to the other driver or property owner:
- Your name,
- Your address,
- The registration number (Tag) of the vehicle you were driving,
- Your insurance provider (not required to comply with the law but required when law enforcement arrives), and
- If asked, show your driver’s license license or permit to drive,
*The underlined portions are those that are required to comply with the law.
to the other driver (or occupant) or person attending the other vehicle or property damaged in the crash. You also have to give this information to the police if they ask for it (and they will).
If you are unable, due to injury, to provide this information, and the police have not questioned you regarding it, you are still obliged to provide the information and report the accident within 10 days.
When No One is Around
If no one is available (or in a condition) for you to give this information to (the vehicle damaged is unattended and the police are not present), you are still required to notify the owner of the damaged vehicle or property of the information listed above.
If the owner cannot be notified in person, you must securely attach your information where it will be found on or near the damaged vehicle or property. You then have to notify the police without delay.
Injuries at the Scene
If your accident caused anyone injury, you must render reasonable assistance to that person. This includes carrying or making arrangements to carry, the injured person to medical care facility if requested.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene
If you are found guilty of violating any of the “Hit and Run” statutes, you will have committed a misdemeanor of the second degree.
Second Degree Misdemeanor Penalties
- Maximum Incarceration up to 60 days jail.
- Maximum fine up to $500.
- Maximum probation is 6 months.
- Court ordered traffic schools (not limited).
- Court ordered license suspension (court discretion).
The court has the discretion to define a sentence as deemed appropriate with any combination of the above listed penalties so long as it does not exceed 6 months. An example would be 5 days jail, followed by 174 days probation, and no fine.
Negotiated agreements between the defendant (through his/her lawyer) and the state to resolve the case often occur. The agreement must remain within the parameters of the statute (second degree misdemeanor penalties). The court typically accepts such resolutions, however is not obligated to accept it.
Defenses to Leaving the Scene of an Accident
As with any criminal offense, the state has the burden of establishing that the crime occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. Doubt can be raised if:
- You left required information.
- Your identity cannot be established as the driver.
- If it cannot be established that you had knowledge of the accident.
- Failure to stop was not willful (lack of knowledge that accident occurred; your own injuries or injuries of another required immediate attention; etc.)
- You did stop as close as you could to the accident.
- The other driver’s or property owner’s behavior made you fear for your safety.
- You did render aid (disputed).
The failsafe for the State’s case is if you do not contact the police to report the accident. There may be many reasons that a jury will consider as to why you did not fulfill your requirements of the statute – at the scene, but leaving without providing information and then not reporting the accident to the police is often unacceptable. However, there are circumstances that may overcome this:
- The accident occurred late at night and you planned on returning to the scene in the morning (neighbors vehicle or property damage).
- Someone else called the police.
- You left your car at the scene (not the best but it can be argued that it is identifying information).
Law Enforcement, the State Attorney’s Office, and Judges understand that many times “hit and runs” occur because the driver of the vehicle is impaired and they do not want to be charged with a DUI. Do not think this does not play a part in the charging and prosecution of these offenses.
Ramifications of this Offense
- Counts towards HTO status if you fail to stop and render aid to injured.
- Automatic suspension of license if you fail to stop and render aid to injured.
- Increases in automobile insurance premiums.
- Civil restitution liens placed against your driver’s license (for uninsured or underinsured drivers).
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