Leaving the scene of an accident is against the law in Florida. The specific laws and penalties for leaving the scene of an accident depends on whether the driver left the scene of the accident after hitting an unattended vehicle or property or the driver left the scene of the accident after being involved in an accident resulting in injury or death. To help illustrate the relevant laws, check out the following hypothetical examples:
Example No. 1: You hit an unattended car while backing out of your parking space in the grocery store parking lot, denting the bumper of the unattended car. No one sees the accident, so you decide to leave the scene of the accident without trying to find the owner of the unattended car, contacting the police, or leaving a note on the unattended car’s windshield with your contact information.
Your actions are in violation of Florida Statute §316.063(1). According to this statute, when you hit an unattended vehicle resulting in damage to that vehicle, you must either: (1) locate the owner of the unattended vehicle and provide him or her with your name, address, and your vehicle’s registration number, or (2) securely attach a note in a conspicuous place on the unattended vehicle that includes your name, address, and your vehicle’s registration number. After locating the owner of the unattended vehicle or leaving a note on the vehicle, the law requires you to promptly contact the police. Violation of this law is a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.
Example No. 2: You back your car into your neighbor’s mailbox, breaking it into pieces. No one saw you hit the mailbox, so you leave the scene of the accident without trying to locate your neighbor, leaving a note for your neighbor, or contacting the police.
Florida Statute §316.063(1), which is discussed above in Example No. 1, doesn’t just apply to hitting an unattended vehicle—it also applies to hitting any type of unattended property such as the mailbox in this example. Florida law requires you to try to locate the owner of the mailbox and give him or her your name, address, and vehicle registration number or leave a note in a conspicuous location that includes this information. After locating the owner of the mailbox or leaving a note, you must immediately contact the police. Violation of this law is a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.
Example No. 3: You have the green light and are driving through an intersection when another car runs a red light and crashes into your car. The driver of the other car has been ejected from his car and is lying on the road with serious injuries.
Regardless of whose fault the accident was, Florida Statue §316.027(1)(a) states that you must immediately stop your vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close to it as possible, and remain at the scene of the crash until you fulfill the requirements of §316.062. The requirements of §316.062 are as follows: (1) contact the police immediately after the accident; (2) give your name, address, vehicle registration number, and exhibit upon request your driver’s license to any person injured in the crash or to the driver or occupant of the other vehicle; (3) give this same information and show your driver’s license to the police officer who arrives at the scene of the crash; and (4) render to any person injured in the crash, provide reasonable assistance, including the carrying, or the making of arrangements for the carrying, of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary, or if such carrying is requested by the injured person. Violation of this law is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $3,000 fine.
Example No. 4: You are involved in a car crash on the highway that results in the death of another person.
Regardless of whether you were at fault for this accident or whether the person who has died is in your vehicle, another vehicle, or was a bystander struck and killed by one of the involved vehicles, Florida Statue §316.027(1)(b) states that you must immediately stop your vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close to it as possible, and remain at the scene of the crash until you fulfill the requirements of §316.062. The requirements of §316.062 are discussed above in Example No. 3. Violation of this law is a first-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Florida law enforcement takes leaving the scene of the accident very seriously and a conviction could lead to significant jail time and fines. As such, if you have been charged with leaving the scene of an accident in South Florida, immediately contact an experienced Miami criminal defense attorney or Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney. Here at the South Florida law firm of Galanter Law, our skilled attorneys have significant experience in defending clients charged with leaving the scene of an accident and will do everything in their powers to help you avoid a conviction or get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether. Contact us today—we can help you!
Commentary by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Yale Galanter:
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