In the State of Florida, a Hit and Run is defined as leaving the scene of an accident. It is also defined as failing to remain at the scene as a driver and complete your statutory duties. Under the law in Florida, leaving the scene of an accident is considered a criminal offense.
What are Statutory Duties?
When an accident involves property damage to another vehicle or item, as a driver, it is your duty under Florida law to:
- Stop immediately at the scene of the accident or as close to it as safely possible
- Advise the operator or owner of the vehicle or property of your name, address, and registration number
- Show your driver’s license if requested by the other party
- Show the police on the scene your insurance information, license, registration, and your legal address
- If you have damaged property through a crash of your vehicle, but the owner is not on the scene, you must locate them and provide the above information. If you are unsure as to how to contact the owner, you must then leave a message with this information in a conspicuous location where they can find it. You are then required to notify the closest police department regarding the crash.
If the accident involves bodily injuries or death, your statutory duties are:
- You must stop your vehicle at the scene or as close to it as safely possible
- Provide your name, address, and registration information for your vehicle to the other driver
- Show your driver’s license if requested
- Give your registration information, license, insurance information and legal address to the police officers on the scene
- If medical treatment is necessary, or if the other driver requests treatment, you are to provide reasonable assistance, which would include making arrangements for the person to go to a hospital, doctor’s clinic, or a surgeon for medical attention
- If the other person is not in a condition to provide the above information, the non-injured driver must notify the closest authorities about the crash
Under Florida law, bodily injury is defined as:
- In the State of Florida, bodily injury or personal injury is defined as injuries resulting in either significant or permanent loss of an essential physical function. Permanent injury is one defined medically within a reasonable degree, other than a disfigurement or scarring.
Serious injury is a personal injury that results in dismemberment, significant disfigurement, death, loss of a fetus, a fracture, permanent loss of use of an organ, member, function, or system of the body. It is also a lifelong limitation, or the use of a body member or organ, or the significant restriction of the use of one's body.
How a Hit and Run is Proven
The State of Florida has to prove you have left the scene of an accident or committed a hit and run crime beyond a reasonable doubt. They must show:
- You were the driver of the vehicle which was involved in the crash that resulted in injury or death to another person, or there was property damage to another person’s items
- You knew or should reasonably have known that you were involved in the crash
- You knew or should reasonably have known about the injury or death of the other person, or their property
- You willfully failed to stop at the scene of the crash, or as safely as was possible to stop. You failed to remain at the scene until you had provided all the necessary information to the investigating officer or other party involved in the accident. You failed to provide 'reasonable help' to the injured person if such treatment was necessary, or appeared to be required.
- Bodily injury is defined under Florida Criminal Statute 28.4
- Attended property is defined under Florida Criminal Statute 28.4a
- Unattended property is defined under Florida Criminal Statute 28.4b
- The term ‘identifying information’ is your legal address, name, vehicle registration, and driver’s license. ‘Willfully’ means you purposefully and intentionally committed an action.
Penalties for Hit and Run under Florida Law
Under Florida law, the penalties for hit and run depends on how extensive the harm or damage was that the accident caused.
Accident involving an injury
If the accident involved personal injuries to another driver or passenger, the offense is considered a third-degree felony. The penalties attached to a conviction of this offense is a prison sentence up to five years, five years on probation, or a fine up to $5,000.
Accident involving a death
If the accident involved the death of another driver or passenger, the offense would be classified as a first-degree felony. If convicted of this charge, you could spend thirty years in prison and a possible fine of $10,000.
If you leave the scene where there was a death or injury, and you are found to have been DUI (driving under the influence), the offense will be subject to a mandatory prison term of two years.
In all hit and run cases that involve an injury or death, the offending driver will also have their driver’s license automatically revoked as determined by the courts.
Accident involving property
A hit and run incident that only involves property damage is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. Penalties, if convicted of this offense include up to sixty days in jail, along with a possible fine up to $500.
How Penalties are Determined in Hit and Run Case with Injuries
If you have been arrested for a hit and run charge in Florida, it is a criminal violation. If injuries occurred to the other party involved in an accident, you could then be arrested and charged with a third-degree felony. This charge will be determined by how severe the other person's injuries are in regards to if they are minor or permanently disabling. If the other's injuries are minor, you could be facing lesser penalties or less jail time and fines.
In a felony case under the State of Florida laws, the State Attorney and the judge will use a sentencing scoresheet to decide what appropriate sentencing would be when you are charged with hit and run that involves an injury.
The prosecutor takes the felony statute, enters it into a computer database, and enters in the injuries on a scale of severity to come up with a number. If the number that comes up is above 44, your potential sentencing could be the mandatory number of months in a Florida State Prison, which the calculator indicates.
There have been cases in the courts where defense attorneys are able to negotiate the charges down to a misdemeanor charge with a stipulation that the defendant would pay restitution (which is otherwise not an obligation) for injuries or property damage. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney working with you through these charges can significantly benefit your outcome.
Under the laws of Florida, the statute does require an officer to arrest you and take you to jail if you have been charged with hit and run where an injury has occurred. When this happens, a defendant should have legal counsel when being charged with hit and run, so an investigation can be initiated to determine if there is any exculpatory evidence to help in defense of your actions.
Often there are witness statements, video surveillance, 911 calls pictures of the damages, receipts from restaurants or bars, or other pieces of evidence that can be quickly destroyed if not obtained right after the incident. This evidence could potentially give your attorney the information they need to deal with the State Attorney.
Penalties for Hit and Run Involving Damage to Property
If there have been no personal injuries as a result of a hit and run incident, but there has been property damage, you are facing a misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor conviction could include probation, fines, and possibly jail time. Jail time will be determined by the facts surrounding your case and any criminal history you may have.
If you have been involved in a hit and run accident where damage has occurred to someone's property, it could result in six points on your driver's license if you are adjudicated guilty.
Adjudicated guilty is when your case has been resolved by either a plea of finding guilt by a judge or a jury. The judge can adjudicate a defendant guilty (formal conviction) or enter a withhold of adjudication. This withholding adjudication then means they are withholding a formal conviction of your case. You will not have been formally convicted of the hit and run. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, you could be eligible to have your record sealed once you have completed any conditions set forth by probation, which the judge has imposed.
If your attorney can negotiate with the State Attorney to withhold adjudication, you would then not have any points placed on your driver’s license.
Point System on Florida Driver’s License
The point system on the Florida driver's license is a graduated scale to assign relative values to convictions. If you receive a ticket, you can take it to the local clerk of court within thirty days for the following options:
- You can pay the fee attached to the ticket, which means you will be admitting guilt. Points will then be placed on your Florida driving record
- Choose to attend a school for driver improvement to withhold the points once you have presented a certificate of completion from the school
- Contest the ticket in court
When you are ticketed, points are placed against your driving record, which can cause you to lose driving privileges if you reach a certain number of points. These are some of the common traffic violations you can receive points for:
- Reckless driving = 4 points
- Hit and Run without giving information and there has been $5o or more in damage = 6 points
- Hit and Run and fail to leave the information on an unattended vehicle where property damage has occurred = 6 points
- Careless driving = 3 points
- Speeding = 3 points
- For more information on point values check with the State of Florida Motor Vehicles for a complete list
If you are driving in another state and receive a driving ticket or commit an offense that would earn Florida points, your driver's license will still earn those points. For example, if you are charged with a hit and run in another state and there are $50 or more property damage involved, you will still earn 6 points on your driver's license even though the offense was not committed in Florida.
Florida treats out-of-state convictions the same as if the offense was committed within the State of Florida. If the state you committed the offense in also uses the point system, Florida will use their state's guidelines to assess the points to your record. You would not be eligible for attending driving school if you receive an out-of-state ticket.
Penalties of Point Accumulation
If you have accumulated more than twelve points in one year, your license will be suspended. The points begin accumulation by the date the ticket was issued.
- If you've accumulated 12 points within a one-year time frame, you will have your driver's license suspended for thirty days
- If you accumulate 18 points within an 18-month time frame, you will receive a suspension of three months on your driver's license
- If you accumulate 24 points within a 36-month time frame, your driving privileges will be suspended for one year
The State's Attorney will have to prove elements beyond doubt when it comes to a hit and run charges involving property damage:
- You were the driver of the vehicle. There are cases where there are no witnesses to establish who was driving a vehicle when the damage occurred
- There was an accident, and that property damage occurred as a result of that accident
The State of Florida has an accident report privilege, which is a unique legal concept. This doctrine states that if you are involved in an accident and report it to the authorities how the accident happened, your statements cannot be used against you in court. Case law; however, states this privilege does not apply if you are involved in a hit and run. You are no longer under the protection of this privilege for having statements not held against you if you flee the scene of an accident.
Whether you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges attached to a hit and run, you need the legal expertise of Arnold Law. If you have left the scene of an accident that involves property damage, the law official has at their discretion to cite you with a notice to appear in court or to physically arrest you. Even if you are given a citation, it is still a criminal charge, and you will need legal representation.
These charges are not only on your criminal record for life if convicted, but they will leave a permanent blemish on your driving record. Even should you plead no contest or guilty for the hit and run, the charge ends as a ‘guilty’ on your permanent record. With this mark on your record, you do not have the opportunity to seal or expunge this charge from your criminal background records.
Restitution in Hit and Run Cases
Restitution, or compensation for loss, is typically not awarded to the other driver or the property owner with a Hit and Run case. Restitution, under Florida law, is awarded to victims in criminal cases when a defendant's conduct indirectly or directly contributed to the loss inflicted on the victim.
Entitlement to restitutionary relief comes through the causal connection between a criminal act and the harm inflicted on the victim. The criminal conduct with a hit and run case does not typically cause a loss to a victim as the damages which have occurred out of the accident would have happened with or without the defendant committing the offense of hit and run.
The Florida Appellate Courts have used this logic consistently and denied restitution as an award with hit and run cases. If there is evidence; however, showing the victim’s injuries were worsened due to the lack of immediate assistance the defendant should have given but did not when they fled the scene, restitution may then be awarded.
Why Would a Driver “Hit and Run”?
There is a multitude of reasons for a driver to leave the scene of an accident, or hit and run. There may be an issue with their driver's license as in it was suspended, or they do not have a driver's license. Other reasons may be, they have an arrest warrant out for them, or they may have items in their vehicle they do not want authorities to discover. Another reason may be that it is not their vehicle, and they do not want the owner to find out about an accident. Lack of or no insurance could be another reason. There are many reasons, some of which may eliminate legal responsibilities; most will not. Arnold Law can talk to you about your case and determine if your reasons for hit and run are defendable.
Defense to Hit and Run Charges
If you are being charged for leaving the scene of an accident, or a hit and run, you want the experienced advice of Arnold Law. These are serious charges that will impact your future and your driving rights. There are strategies and defenses available that will allow us to contest a hit and run charge and minimize your potential consequences. Some of the common defenses strategies for these charges include:
- You were not aware a crash occurred
- You were dictated by other circumstances that did not allow you to stop
- Your stop was as close to the accident as you felt safe doing
- You left the scene due to the other driver's behavior. Because of the belligerent attitude of other drivers, and you left the scene to contact the police
- You dispute the identity of the other driver
- You were not aware of an impact with another person or their property
- The other driver would not take your identifying information
- The assistance you provided was within the ‘reasonable’ statute
With the help of an experienced attorney, a hit and run charge does not have to end with a conviction. An attorney knowledgeable with Florida law and the court systems can negotiate some of these cases. It is possible to receive a lenient resolution and have you avoid a mark on your permanent criminal record, probation, or even jail time.
In every hit and run case, having legal representation is critical. An attorney is able to minimize or avoid penalties. With Arnold Law working beside you through this difficult legal challenge, an investigation of the case can present evidence to provide you a more favorable outcome. We can also work with you and the police department to prevent you from making damaging statements.
Other Road-Related Offenses in Florida
A rule of the road in the State of Florida is every motorist must have a valid driver's license to drive on Florida roadways. Any driver who has had their license suspended, or anyone who has never held a driver's license, can face legal consequences under Florida law. A first or second offense will be charged as a misdemeanor, and you could be sentenced up to a $500 fine with a possible jail sentence of 60 days. A third offense will be charged as a felony, and you could be sentenced with up a $5,000 fine and a possible prison term of 5 years.
You can be charged with reckless driving in Florida if you are found operating your vehicle with negligence or disregard of your safety or the safety of others. This disregard could be using excessive speed or running from a police officer who is trying to pull you off the road.
Reckless driving can result in misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the circumstances of your case. If convicted as a second-degree misdemeanor, you would face up to a $1,000 fine and a six-month jail sentence. If convicted as a first-degree misdemeanor, there is a possible one-year jail sentence or one year of probation, along with up to $1,000 in fines. If you are convicted of felony reckless driving, it could result in a five-year prison sentence with up to $5,000 in fines.
Help for Hit and Run Charges Near Me
Hit and Run charges are serious in the State of Florida. Contact Arnold Law at 904-264-3627 if you are facing charges for leaving the scene of an accident as there are serious consequences if convicted of this allegation. Even if there have been no injuries or damages as a result of the accident, you will need legal representation during this difficult time. You should not face the consequences for a single mistake for the rest of your life, let our legal experts help you find a positive outcome to these charges.