Have you recently been charged with leaving the scene of an accident? A hit-and-run offense is a severe crime in the state of Florida. When you have been accused, clearing your name of the allegations against you is critical if you hope to avoid the harsh penalties of a criminal conviction.
Find out more about how you can challenge your charges when you contact experienced Tampa hit-and-run lawyers at Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A., for a confidential consultation today.
Defining Hit-and-Runs in Florida
Leaving the scene of an accident, also known as a hit-and-run, refers to any incident in which a driver fails to remain at the scene of a car accident and fulfill their other requirements.
Drivers must remain at the scene of a car accident when there is severe bodily injury, property damage, or death. According to Florida law, there are certain obligations, frequently referred to as statutory duties, drivers have in the event of an accident. These requirements include:
- Stop at the scene of an accident if there are property damages or injuries
- Inform the owner or operator of the vehicle you hit and provide them with your name, contact information, and vehicle registration number
- Provide the party you hit with a copy of your driver’s license and insurance information
- Providing the previously mentioned details to law enforcement officers
If there is a severe bodily injury or death, be prepared to contact emergency responders or otherwise ensure those injured receive the medical attention they need.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene
The consequences you can face if you are convicted of leaving the scene of a Florida car accident can vary widely depending on the damage that occurs in the collision. For instance, if you were involved in a car accident and someone was seriously injured, you could be charged with a third-degree felony. This is punishable by up to five years in prison and fines as high as $5,000.
However, if you were charged with fleeing the scene of an accident where there was a fatality, you could expect to be charged with a first-degree felony. If convicted, you could be sentenced to up to 30 years in a Florida State prison and be ordered to pay fines as high as $10,000.
Hit-and-run accidents in Florida also have a mandatory minimum prison sentence of two years in the event of a serious bodily injury or death. If you are accused of fleeing the scene of an accident where there were property damages, you may spend up to 60 days in a Tampa county jail and be ordered to pay fines not to exceed $500.
Other Consequences of Fleeing the Scene
The consequences of fleeing the scene of an accident reach beyond the criminal penalties you will face. Whether you are innocent or guilty, fleeing the scene of an accident will almost always be interpreted as guilt. This could have a devastating impact on your case, even if you fled out of fear or shock.
Driver’s License Suspension or Revocation
You can also expect your driver’s license to be suspended via the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles. If you are charged with and convicted of a misdemeanor offense, your license may be suspended or revoked for several months. However, you could expect your license to be suspended or revoked for multiple years if you are convicted of a felony offense.
When you flee the scene of an accident, the liable party may have the authority to pursue a third-party liability claim against you.
In filing a civil lawsuit, they may be able to hold you financially accountable for their economic and non-economic damages. If your insurance coverage does not cover every loss, you may be on the hook for the injury victim’s emotional, physical, and financial losses.
Increased Insurance Rates
Your insurance rates are sure to skyrocket if you are convicted of a hit-and-run. Insurance companies will see you as a high-risk driver, which will dramatically increase the amount you are required to pay in auto insurance premiums.
What Is Required to Prove Criminal Hit-and-Run Charges?
For the Florida state prosecuting attorney to prove that you should be found guilty of the allegations against you, they will need to show that the elements of the offense have been met:
- You must have been driving the vehicle and caused a collision that resulted in property damage, injuries, or death
- You knew you were involved in an accident
- You knew you caused property damage, injury, or death
- You intentionally and willfully failed to stop at the scene of the accident, provide the other involved party with your identification information, or contact police
Possible Defenses of Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Multiple potential defenses may be available if you are hoping to challenge the hit-and-run allegations against you. In some instances, you can avoid going to court by entering a pretrial diversion program or working out a plea agreement with the prosecutor.
However, these options are not available to every defendant. In fact, unless you are a first-time offender of a non-violent offense, it is unlikely the state will work with you to obtain a pretrial diversion or plea agreement. If you must defend yourself in court, there are several potential defenses, including:
- The other involved driver refused to give you their identification information
- There is question as to whether you were the driver of the vehicle involved in an accident
- The other involved party became aggressive, so much so that you needed to flee the scene of the accident so you could contact law enforcement
- You did not know that there was a collision with property or individuals
- You had no intention of failing to stop
How Your Car Accident Attorney Can Help
Having a criminal defense attorney by your side when you have been accused of committing a hit-and-run may be in your best interest. Working with a hit-and-run accident lawyer makes it possible for you to consider all potential defensive options.
Your lawyer can handle the investigation into the cause of the accident, help you protect yourself from self-incrimination, and work to obtain a favorable outcome in your case. We can analyze the evidence at hand during discovery to determine whether working out a plea agreement or presenting a compelling defense at trial is in your best interests.
Contact a Hit and Run Accident Attorney in Tampa Today
If you have been accused of fleeing the scene of a Tampa car accident, and you do not know where to turn for help, it is critical that you get an aggressive criminal defense lawyer on your side who can help you clear your name of all charges.
Reach out to Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A., for a confidential case review today. You can reach us through our secure contact form or by phone at 813-258-4800 to get started on your defense strategy as soon as today.