The roads have become increasingly dangerous, leading to several car crashes and accidents daily. While these circumstances can be terrifying for many drivers, leaving the scene of an accident is a crime in all 50 states. It doesn’t matter if you think the accident was minor; you cannot leave. If you do, you could be charged with a felony and, depending on the severity of the accident, could face jail time or even a prison sentence. In this article, we’ll discuss your duties during an accident, the penalties, and possible defenses.
What Are the Statutory Duties During an Accident?
If you live in Florida, you have several statutory duties to fulfill during an accident. These include ensuring that the injured party receives immediate medical attention upon crashing and preventing people from facing criminal charges for leaving the scene of an accident.
With that in mind, here are some things you should do whenever an accident occurs.
1. Accidents Involving Bodily Injury or Death
Once an accident involves minor to severe bodily injury or death, the driver must do the following:
- Stop the vehicle close to or exactly at the scene where the crash happened.
- Provide their name, vehicle registration number, and address to the other driver.
- Present their driver’s license or permit to drive if needed.
- Give whereabouts, registration number, and driver’s license to the police officers.
- If medical treatment is necessary, extend reasonable assistance to the injured party, such as helping them go to the hospital, doctor, or physician for immediate treatment.
- If the other driver cannot receive the details due to severe conditions, the non-injured one must report to the police as soon as possible.
2. Accidents With Property Damage
On the other hand, the following are what needs to happen if the accident involves property damage.
- Stop the vehicle close to or exactly at the place where the accident occurred.
- Provide your name, address, and registration number to the owner or operator of the property or other vehicle.
- Show your driver’s license or permit to drive if necessary.
- Give essential and personal information to the police officers or law enforcers.
- If no one attends to the damaged property, locate the property owner or write a note including the driver’s name, whereabouts, and vehicle registration number. Attach it securely in a safe place on the vehicle or property.
- Notify the nearest police station about the accident.
How Can the Court Prove the Crime?
The prosecution council cannot easily accuse you of this crime without presenting solid facts that make you the culprit of leaving an accident. Before the courts can confirm you are guilty, the prosecutors must prove that:
- You were driving the vehicle involved in the accident that caused the vehicle or property damage, personal injuries, or death.
- You knew that you were in a crash.
- You knew that the accident resulted in one or multiple destructions and injuries around the scene.
- You willfully failed to stop close to or precisely at the scene.
- You did not stay at the place while required by the law.
What Are the Penalties for Leaving the Scene?
If you fail to fulfill your statutory duties and get convicted by the courts, expect they will punish you with a penalty suitable for the situation. For instance, monetary fines and jail time can differ depending on the severity of the damage caused.
With that said, here are the corresponding penalties for each circumstance.
1. With Unattended Property
The statute recognizes this situation as a 2nd-degree misdemeanor. Hence, it has the lowest punishment, which includes a maximum of 60 days in jail and a $500 monetary fine.
2. With Attended Property
As a 1st-degree misdemeanor, you must spend a maximum of a year in prison. Moreover, the court will ask you to pay $1,000.
3. With Minor Injury
Once an accident causes minor injury, the case will fall under 3rd-degree felony. You will pay $5,000, spend up to five years in jail, and have your driver’s license revoked for at least three years.
4. With Severe Bodily Injury
In a 2nd-degree felony, you will be in jail for 15 years and pay $10,000. The courts will also revoke your driver’s license for at least three years.
5. With Fatal Circumstances or Death
Lastly, accidents resulting in death are under 1st-degree felony. You will pay $10,000 and be in prison for 30 years. As well, your driver’s license will be revoked for a minimum of 3 years.
What Are the Possible Defenses for Leaving the Scene of an Accident?
There are a number of defenses available when facing criminal charges for leaving the scene of an accident. These defenses include:
- The driver’s personal information may be contested if mistaken identity is an issue.
- You did not know that an accident had happened.
- You were not aware that a crash occurred with properties or persons.
- You failed to stop at the scene due to unfortunate circumstances and not because you wanted to escape.
- You stopped as close as possible to the place where the accident happened.
- The other driver declined to receive personal information.
- You had to leave the scene because the other driver became aggressive.
- The assistance you gave was adequate under the statute.
The criminal charges regarding this offense may not be as severe as you think. While you might not have a solid defense or argument to offer, your criminal defense attorney can talk with the prosecution about a better solution or lesser punishment.
With the help of your criminal defense attorney, you may be able to avoid probation, jail time, or having a permanent criminal record altogether. Make sure you work closely with your attorney to ensure that the best possible defenses are being presented.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Now
If you are involved in an accident, even if you think it’s minor, it’s important to stay at the scene and call the police. Leaving the scene of an accident is illegal. If you have committed this crime, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. While in most cases, this is a misdemeanor, if, however, there was bodily harm or death, you can be charged with a felony.
With over 20 years of experience, the Hanlon Law Firm can help you fight your case. Contact our team today for a free consultation and begin the process of building your defense.
210 N Pierce St
Tampa, FL 33602
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