Leaving the Scene of an Accident, or “Hit and Run,” seems to be occurring at a fairly high rate in Martin County. Before getting behind the wheel of a car, there are a few things you should know. First and foremost, accidents happen. And when they do, the drivers of the cars involved have a duty to exchange information, and render aid to people who have been injured. If everyone is injured to the point that they cannot respond or take information, and no police officers are present, the drivers have a duty to contact the nearest police department and report the accident. In this situation, Florida Law says that, “The statutory duty of a person to make a report or give information to a law enforcement officer shall not be construed as extending to information which would violate the privilege against self incrimination.”
The way this has been interpreted by Florida Law is not simple. You have a duty to report an accident, and any statement made during that accident investigation will be inadmissible in court against you in a criminal matter. Even though your statements cannot be used against you during the accident investigation, the statements of other witnesses may be used against you. So can physical evidence including any damage to property or the vehicles. Additionally, once an officer tells you that he is no longer investigating a crash or an accident and is now investigating a criminal matter, anything you say can be used against you in court. As soon as the accident investigation is over, you have the right to remain silent.
If a driver does not report the accident and/or exchange the necessary documentation at the scene of the crash, it is a crime. If there are no injuries, a hit and run is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in the county jail. If there has been an injury, a hit and run becomes a 3rd degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. And if there is a death as a result of the accident, leaving the scene is elevated to a first degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. This is a higher level crime than DUI Manslaughter. Additionally, any time there is a death involved, the Criminal Punishment Code kicks in and it scores this crime with a minimum prison sentence of almost 10 years! Unless the accused fits within a legal reason for a downward departure.
There are defenses to the crime of leaving the scene of an accident/hit and run, and often there are reasons for mitigation. If you have been accused of hit and run, you should contact a lawyer immediately. The penalties can be truly life altering. For more information or a FREE Consultation on Hit and Run/Leaving the Scene of an Accident, contact us at Ferraro Law Group and put our experience to work for you.