Understanding Florida’s Hit and Run Laws
When an individual hits a person or a person’s property with a motor vehicle, there is a responsibility to notify the owner and the authorities. A recent study found that many Florida drivers are either unaware of this obligation, or purposely ignoring it. The Florida Highway Patrol reports that more than 80,000 hit and run accidents occurred during 2014. The frequency of these accidents rose by 23 percent between 2013 and 2014, according to a report by Fox News. Additionally, more than half of the hit and run accidents in Florida involved pedestrians.
In response to this statistic, law enforcement officials are advising drivers about the penalties and possible consequences of leaving an accident scene. To further this initiative, The Florida Highway Patrol is highlighting the stories of hit-and-run victims. One such incident involved an older couple that retired to Florida. While walking in a bike lane, the wife was struck by a pickup truck that allegedly left the scene. The accident was fatal, but no one has been held responsible for it. While law enforcement officials located the vehicle in question, they are still searching for the driver.
What is a Hit and Run
In Florida, a hit and run incident is also referred to as leaving the scene of an accident. The law states that the “driver of any vehicle involved in a crash resulting only in damage to a vehicle or other property which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such crash or as close thereto as possible, and shall forthwith return to, and in every event shall remain at, the scene of the crash…” The driver must provide their contact information to the owner of the property and any present law enforcement officer. If no one is present, the driver must notify a law enforcement agency as soon as possible.
While property damage is classified as a second degree misdemeanor, the Florida legislature substantially increased the penalties for hit and run cases involving injury or death to a person, with the passage of the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act. Under the new law:
- Leaving the scene of an accident involving bodily harm was upgraded from a third degree felony to a second degree felony.
- For accidents resulting in human death, the statute created a mandatory minimum sentence of four years.
- For accidents resulting in human death, while the driver was under the influence of alcohol, the mandatory minimum sentence was increased from two to four years.
Defending a hit and run allegation can prove extremely challenging. An experienced lawyer may create reasonable doubt about your knowledge of the events or whether you were actually involved in the accident. However, damage to your vehicle may work against these defenses. Alternatively, a good explanation for your leaving the scene may successfully decrease the level of punishment you face.
If you or a loved one is facing hit and run charges in Miami, Mycki Ratzan and Jude Faccidomo can provide you with an aggressive and comprehensive defense. Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC today at (305) 330-3905 for a confidential and free consultation.