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Leaving the Scene of a Crash

If you left the leaving the scene of a car accident after a crash, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL. We represent clients in the Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, and Hernando County, Florida.

Call us before a law enforcement officer comes to your home or work to question you about the crash. We can help you invoke your right to remain silent. Although anything that you say will be used against you at trial, your attorney is often in the best position to tell your side of the story and present mitigating evidence that might help explain what happened so that any criminal charges can be avoided.

At the Sammis Law Firm, our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in leaving the scene of a crash (often called "hit and run") throughout the greater Tampa Bay area. We represent clients accused of a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of a crash with unattended property or attended property. We also represent clients for felony charges of hit and run involving personal injury or death.

Never leave the scene of a crash. But if you have already made that mistake and a criminal investigation has begun, call 813-250-0500 to speak directly with an attorney about the facts of your case. You have the RIGHT to be represented by an attorney at every stage of a criminal investigation.

Call us to find out the best things to do right now protect yourself against this serious accusation. We can help you deal with the investigating officer and your insurance company at every stage of the case.


Different Types of Leaving the Scene Charges

Leaving the Scene of an Accident or Crash is a serious criminal driving offense under Florida law with serious criminal penalties. In addition to fines and possible jail or prison time, the court can order a revocation or suspension of your Florida driver's license.

Even if you are able to avoid a suspension or revocation (depending on the type of offense) any charge of "leaving the scene" or "hit and run" in Florida can cause your auto insurance premiums to increase dramatically for many years to come.

Different statutes under Florida law address the criminal offense of leaving the scene of a crash. Depending on the facts of the case, it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The type of charge depends on whether:

  • the vehicle or other property that was struck was unattended (this can including hitting an empty parked car, mailbox, or fence);
  • the vehicle or other property was attended (this can including hitting a vehicle while a driver or passenger is inside of that vehicle;
  • the crash caused bodily injury of a non-serious nature to another person;
  • the caused personal injury classified as "serious bodily injury" to another;
  • the crash lead to the death of another person involved in the crash.

Invoke Your Right to Remain Silent after the Crash

If you are under criminal investigation in Florida for leaving the scene of a crash or "hit and run" it is important to speak with an attorney before making any statements to law enforcement. After the criminal investigation begins, you have a right to invoke the 5th amendment and remain silent about the facts of the case. Your side of the story can best be told by your criminal defense attorney.

Your lawyer can make sure that none of your statements can be misconstrued by law enforcement. Your lawyer can make sure that you avoid making any incriminating statements that can later be used against you at trial for the very serious offense of leaving the scene of a crash or "hit and run."

Your lawyer can present to law enforcement any evidence that explains your actions or other defenses that may prevent any charges from being filed. In the event that law enforcement decides to proceed with issuing you a citation or making an arrest, your attorney can help to minimize the amount of bond that may be required, or make other arraignments for your surrender that may minimize the time that you spend in jail.


Duty Remain at Scene and Exchange Information

As a preliminary manner, under Section 316.062, if you are involved in a vehicle accident or crash that results in damage to another vehicle or other property, or if any person is injured, you have certain legal obligations to provide information and render aid. The failure to comply with this duty to provide information or render aid is a noncriminal or civil traffic infraction.

You should always remain at the scene after a crash until these requirements have been met. Leaving the scene can lead to serious criminal charges. If you already left the scene then a criminal investigation has begun and you should talk with an attorney who can represent you. The duty to provide "identifying information" includes the following:

  • you must provide your name and address;
  • you must provide the registration number of the vehicle that you were driving;
  • upon request from any other person involved, or any law enforcement officer investigating the accident, you must show your driver's license or permit to drive;
  • if any person entitled to this information is unavailable after the accident, you are required to report the accident to the nearest law enforcement agency or police station.

Furthermore, under Florida law the judge may instruct the jury that the State proves the fourth element if the driver failed to give ANY PART of the "identifying information."


Duty to Render Aid and Provide Reasonable Assistance to Injured Person

The duty to render aid under Florida law includes the following:

  • If anyone is injured, you must provide reasonable assistance, including making arrangements for the injured person to go to the hospital if such treatment appears to be necessary or if it is requested by the injured person.

Of course, the "leaving the scene" statutes under Florida law do not apply to any vehicle accident or crash that occurs during a motorsports event or at a closed-course motorsport facility.


Leaving the Scene of a Crash with Unattended Property

Most charges for leaving the scene of a crash involving unattended property occur after a person hits a parked car causing more than $50 in damage and then leaves the scene. Florida Statute 316.063 imposes the duty to remain at the scene after striking unattended property or vehicles when property damage occurs. 

A violation of this statute is charged as a second-degree misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine of up to $500 plus court costs and up to 6 months probation or up to 60 days in jail.

After a crash with unattended property causing damage to that property, Florida Statute 316.063 requires you to stop and locate the owner of the property and provide the owner of the property with your name, address, and the registration number of your vehicle.

Alternatively, if the owner of the property cannot be located, then you have a duty to attach securely in a conspicuous place in or on the damaged vehicle or other property a written notice given your name, address, and registration number of your vehicle. 

After attaching your information on the vehicle, you are then required to immediately report the crash to law enforcement.


Leaving the Scene of a Crash Involving Damage to Attended Property

Under Florida Statute Section 316.061, leaving the scene of an accident or crash ("hit and run") can occur after an accident involving only property damage to another occupied vehicle or other attended property. This type of charge usually occurs when you hit another vehicle occupied by a driver or passenger.

A violation of this statute occurs when you leave the scene of the crash prior to providing the information required above. A violation of this statute is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by 6 months probation or 60 days in jail, as well as a fine of up to $500.


Leaving the Scene of a Crash Involving Personal Injury or Death

Florida Statute Section 316.027 addresses the situation when a driver leaves the scene of an accident or crash that involves personal injury or death. The statutes provide that you must stop your vehicle at the scene of the crash and remain at the scene until you have provided information discussed above and rendered aid to any injured person as discussed above.

Any willful violation of this statute after an accident involving injury to another is a felony in the third degree, punishable by up to five years in Florida State Prison. Under Florida law, the prosecutor must prove the following four elements to prove the offense of leaving the scene of a crash involving injury:

  1. The defendant was the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash or accident occurring on public or private property resulting in [injury to] [death of] any person.
  2. The defendant knew that he was involved in a crash or accident.*
  3. The defendant knew or should have known from all of the circumstances, including the nature of the crash or accident, of the injury to or death of the person.
  4. Additionally, one of the following elements must be proven:
    • The person charged with leaving the scene willfully failed to stop at the scene of the crash or as close to the crash as possible and remain there until he had given "identifying information" to the other driver, injured person, an occupant of the vehicle, or a person attending the vehicle and to any police officer investigating the crash; or
    • The person charged willfully failed to give or render "reasonable assistance" to the injured person if such treatment appeared to be necessary or was requested by the injured person.
*Update: In a prosecution under Florida's hit-and-run statute, section 316.027, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver had actual knowledge of the crash, an essential element of the crime of leaving the scene of a crash. State v. Dorsett, 158 So. 3d 557, 563 (Fla. 2015). The Dorsett case, decided on February 26, 2015, clarified other cases finding that only proof that the defendant "should have known" that he was involved in a crash was sufficient. Now, the Florida Supreme Court has made it clear that "actual knowledge of the crash" is required. The Dorsett court went on to explain that proving knowledge or intent is seldom capable of direct proof but is usually established from the surrounding circumstances.
As a result of the decision in State v. Dorsett, 158 So.3d 557 (Fla.2015), the Supreme Court of Florida approved changes to the standard jury instructions 28.4 for leaving the scene of a crash involving death or injury.

The Standard Jury Instructions 28.4, 28.8(b), and 28.8(e) were modified to reflect the actual knowledge element, i.e., that the defendant knew that he or she was involved in a crash or accident, consistent with this Court's decision in State v. Dorsett, 158 So.3d 557, 563 (Fla.2015).

The jury instruction now requires that the "Defendant knew that he or she was involved in a crash or accident." The option to find that the Defendant knew or should have known as been deleted. Additionally, the instruction now requires an element that the Defendant "knew or should have known from all of the circumstances, including the nature of the crash or accident, of the injury to or death of the person. See In re Standard Jury Instructions In Criminal Cases--Report No. 2013-04, 166 So. 3d 161, 163 (Fla. 2015).

Leaving the Scene of a Crash Involving Death

Florida Statute Section 316.027 also addresses the situation in which an accident results in the death of any person involved in the accident. If any person involved in the accident dies at the scene, then the offense of leaving the scene is a first-degree felony punishable by thirty (30) years in Florida State Prison.

Under Florida law, the prosecutor must prove the following four elements in order to prove the offense of leaving the scene of a crash involving death:

  1. The person charged with leaving the scene was the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash resulting in death of another person.
  2. The person charged with leaving the scene knew or should have known that he was involved in a crash.
  3. The person charged with leaving the scene knew or should have known of the injury to or death of another person.
  4. Additionally, one of the following elements must be proven:
    • The person charged with leaving the scene willfully failed to stop at the scene of the crash or as close to the crash as possible and remain there until he had given "identifying information" to the other driver, injured person, an occupant of the vehicle, or a person attending the vehicle and to any police officer investigating the crash; or
    • The person charged willfully failed to give or render "reasonable assistance" to the injured person if such treatment appeared to be necessary or was requested by the injured person.

Leaving the Scene while Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Additionally, if you leaving the scene of any accident involving death or injury while driving under the influence (DUI), then the court upon your conviction must impose a minimum mandatory sentence of two (2) years in Florida State Prison.

In many of these cases where DUI is alleged, the person that leaves the scene of the accident is picked up a short distance away from the crash. 

These cases often involve a breath or blood test or a refusal to submit to chemical testing after being advised of Florida's implied consent statute. The implied consent statute imposes an administrative suspension of the driver's license after a refusal to submit to a lawful test.


Duty to Move a Damaged Vehicle to Avoid Blocking Traffic

Although you have an obligation not to leave the scene of an accident, Florida law also requires you to make reasonable efforts to move your damaged vehicle if it is blocking or obstructing traffic.

Many times an individual will move the vehicle to a nearby location so that the driver can call a family member or law enforcement officer with no intention to "leave the scene." Moving the vehicle to a nearby location to call for assistance or to prevent the vehicle from blocking or obstructing traffic may be a defense to any criminal charge.


Choosing an Attorney in Tampa for Leaving the Scene of a Crash

If you have been involved in any vehicle accident in which it is alleged that you left the scene prior to providing the require information or rendering aid to any injured person, contact an experienced attorney for your "hit and run" case in Hillsborough County, Hernando County, Pinellas County, Polk County, or Pasco County, FL.

Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney today. We handle leaving the scene of an accident (hit and run) cases in the following cities in the Tampa Bay area, including Tampa, Plant City, New Port Richey, Dade City, Bartow, St. Petersburg, Clearwater or Brooksville, Florida.

We also represent clients charged with civil traffic infractions such as speeding, failure to maintain lane, improper U-turn, running a red light, improper backing or running a stop sign.


This article was last updated by on Friday, February 17, 2017.

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