An 18-year-old Tequesta woman was recently arrested for leaving the scene of an accident involving injury, a third degree felony, after she left a party and struck a parked car and a pedestrian at 3:30 a.m. The pedestrian was treated for abrasions to her arms and legs. The young woman was released on her own recognizance but she faces up to five years in prison as well as a driver’s license suspension.
In Florida, if a person leaves the scene of a motor vehicle collision, he can face serious criminal charges. If the crash results only in property damage (and not injury), then it is a second degree misdemeanor to leave the scene. That means that the person could face up to sixty days in jail.
However, if a person is injured in the crash, then the person leaving the scene could be charged with a third degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. If a person dies in the crash, then it’s a first degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. A death would also trigger a minimum mandatory sentence of two years in prison, meaning that the person faces anywhere from 2-30 years incarceration. Any time the crash involves an injury or death, there is also automatically a mandatory court-ordered driver’s license suspension.
With such serious possible penalties, it is important for any person charged with leaving the scene of an accident to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. For instance, in order to charge a person with a felony for leaving the scene of a crash involving injury or death, the government must prove that the driver not only left the scene and injury resulted from the crash, but they must also prove that the driver either knew or should have known of the injury before they left. That means that where a person leaves the scene of an accident not knowing that anyone was injured, an experienced attorney may be able to negotiate the charge as a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Depending on a person’s criminal background, a misdemeanor offense could mean probation or even pre-trial diversion, where a driving improvement course is taken and the charges are dismissed. This is why it is imperative to consult a qualified criminal attorney if a person is charged with or facing a possible charge of leaving the scene of an accident.