Returning home one evening after a long day at work you stopped for a drink with some people from the office. After a couple of hours, you drove home feeling a little tired and still thinking about work when the traffic light in front of you turned red. Though you have been down this road a thousand times, you ignored the light and drove into the intersection, colliding with another vehicle.
Shaken up but not hurt, you suddenly realized what happened and that you were probably legally drunk. Panicking and worried about your job and what a drunk driving charge means, you backed up and took off, hopeful that no one could identify you or your car. Unfortunately, the driver and passengers in the vehicle you struck may have been injured.
Leaving the scene of an accident is a serious offense in Florida. If you leave the scene and caused property damage but not having caused any injuries, you will likely face a misdemeanor charge. But if the people in the above scenario were seriously injured or killed, then you can be charged with a felony and possible prison time.
Every driver knows, or should know, that when involved in any kind of accident he or she is obligated to stop and exchange identification and insurance information with all other involved parties. It is a misdemeanor in a non-injury accident to fail to give this information.
Should the accident involve serious injuries or death, you must remain at the scene until you can either exchange information or give it to the investigating officer when he or she arrives at the scene. Also, if you fail to assist an injured person who either requested help or apparently needed it, you can still be charged with a felony. Rendering assistance means calling 911 or if no one is present with a phone or has access to one, taking that person to a hospital or finding some other kind of aid, if possible.
If only property damage was involved but you fled the scene, you can be charged with a second degree misdemeanor. The penalty is up to 60-days in jail, six months of probation and/or a fine up to $500.
Leaving the scene of an accident where there is injury is a third degree felony. The maximum jail sentence is five years, along with five years of probation and/or a fine up to $5,000.
Should a death have resulted, the charge is a first degree felony, which includes a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 24-months and a maximum of 30 years’ incarceration. You also face a fine up to $10,000 and/or 15-years of probation.
Be sure to remain at the scene of any accident and either exchange information or wait until the police arrive, regardless if you are at fault. The cover-up is always worse than the actual crime and judges will treat you more severely for fleeing the scene.
There are defenses available if you are charged with fleeing or leaving the scene of an accident, but you will need the services of an experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney. Because your freedom and reputation are at stake, retain the services of The Wiseman Law Firm. Call today for a free consultation.