Can I Go to Jail for a Hit-and-Run Accident?
At McShane & McShane Law Firm, P.A. in Orlando, we often hear this question from distraught drivers who made the wrong decision in the heat of the moment and deeply regret that they didn’t follow the letter of the law. In more than 40 years of combined practice, our criminal defense attorneys have helped numerous drivers facing a range of consequences based on the severity of the accident.
So, if you are wondering whether you face jail time for leaving the scene of an accident, the answer depends primarily on whether a person was injured. Section 316.062 of the Florida Statutes requires a driver involved in a vehicle accident to “give his or her name, address, and the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving, and shall upon request and if available exhibit his or her license or permit to drive…” and…“render to any person injured in the crash reasonable assistance….” If no one is present to receive the information, the driver must “report the crash to the nearest” police station.
If you fail to identify yourself properly or report the crash, you have committed “a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation.” So, leaving the scene of a fender bender can get you a citation with a fine and six penalty points. This applies even if you back into a parked car in the lot and break a taillight. You should report the accident to the police. If you simply leave a business card on the windshield with instructions to call you about the accident, you have technically violated the law
However, it’s a much different situation if a person is injured or killed in the crash and you take off. If you do not stop to render reasonable assistance, you have also violated § 316.027. This statute requires a driver involved in a crash in which someone is injured to remain at the scene to fulfill all the requirements of § 316.062. Fleeing the scene of a crash where someone has been injured is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison. If a person has been seriously injured, the charge is a second-degree felony, carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years. Finally, if a person dies from injuries suffered in the accident, fleeing the scene is a first-degree felony punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of four years and as much as 30 years in state prison. The case becomes even more complicated if there is evidence the driver was operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol or without a valid license.
When you are facing severe penalties like those listed above, you need competent, thorough and effective representation. To speak with a defense attorney at McShane & McShane Law Firm, P.A., call 407.648.1500 or contact our Orlando office online.