Being involved in an accident that causes an injury or property damage is a terrifying experience. In the moment, you may panic and decide to leave the scene. In these stressful situations, it is easy to let your instincts get the best of you. In Florida, hit and run crimes are punished harshly, with sentences including huge fines and time spent in prison. If you have been charged with this criminal traffic offense, you are likely worried about these consequences. Sarasota hit and run lawyer Erika Valcarcel understands how a moment of panic can result in bad decisions. Attorney Valcarcel has spent time as both a prosecutor and a defender and knows how to anticipate the prosecution’s strategy in order to craft a winning defense.
Florida Hit and Run Laws
According to Florida Statute 316.061, hit and run, otherwise known as leaving the scene of the accident, is defined as driving away from an accident that involves the damage of property. In many scenarios, the owner of the damaged property is nowhere to be found. Unfortunately, this is irrelevant, as Florida law requires that the perpetrator of the crime attempt to locate the owner. If the owner is absent from the scene, the driver is required to leave their contact information in plain view. Overall, hit and run cases involve the following elements:
- A person causing an accident that results in damage to another person’s property, such as a vehicle or building; and
- The person willfully leaving the scene of the accident without leaving their contact information for the property owner
Leaving the scene of an accident can also be committed when death or injury is involved. These cases typically include a vehicle accident that results in death or injury to a person. In these situations, the person is legally required to adhere to the following requirements:
- Stop the vehicle as soon as possible;
- Provide relevant contact information, such as name, address, registration, and insurance details;
- Provide reasonable assistance to the injured or deceased victim. This could include providing first aid, helping the person out of their vehicle, and making arrangements to transport the person to a facility to receive medical attention
Penalties for Hit and Run
The criminal consequences for hit and run can be relatively minor, with many crimes being filed as misdemeanors. However, the penalties become harsh when death or injury is involved. Leaving the scene of an accident that involves injury, serious bodily injury, or death is classified as either a third-degree felony, second-degree felony, or a first-degree felony, respectively. Penalties for hit and run offenses require a license suspension and payment of restitution, but also include:
- Hit and Run Involving Property Damage: Up to 60 days in jail, up to 6 months on probation, and a fine of up to $500
- Hit and Run Involving Injury: Up to 5 years in prison, up to 5 years of probation, and a fine of up to $5,000
- Hit and Run Involving Death: Up to 30 years in prison, up to 30 years of probation, including a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 4 years, and a fine of up to $10,000
Leaving the scene of an accident also carries collateral consequences that can follow you for years. Finding a job may become all but impossible, as employers are not fond of hiring someone with a criminal record. Furthering your education may also become a challenge. Most colleges vet applicants before admitting them, and many scholarships are off-limits to those who have committed crimes
Defenses Against Hit and Run Charges
There are a number of defenses that can be used to keep you out of jail. Perhaps the accident you were involved in was not serious, and you did not know that you were required to stop. Maybe the owner was not around, prompting you to leave with the assumption that you had no other options. Proving that you were unaware of the situation can lead to a lenient sentence or even a dismissal of charges. You might also have been a victim of mistaken identity. Showing that you were not in operation of the vehicle is an effective way to protect your freedom.
Let Sarasota Traffic Attorney Erika Valcarcel Protect Your Rights
Sarasota hit and run lawyer Erika Valcarcel understands the devastation a hit and run charge can cause. Going to prison could uproot every aspect of your life, from altered relationships to a ruined career. Attorney Erika Valcarcel will work tirelessly to prove your innocence so that your charges are thrown out in court. She will listen to your side of the story and use every detail to present your case in a positive light. Call (941) 363-7900 for a free legal consultation.