Florida law requires that a driver involved in an accident that causes any personal injury must remain at the scene of the accident. While at the scene, the driver must exchange information, such as insurance; show a valid driver’s license; contact law enforcement; and provide reasonable aid to the injured.
A willful violation of this statute results in the crime of leaving the scene of an accident with great bodily injury, or LSA with great bodily injury. This crime is a third degree felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $5,000.
If the accident results in a death of any person and the driver flees the scene, the driver has committed a felony of the first degree. A first degree felony carries a term of imprisonment of up to 30 years, and a fine of up to $10,000.
LSA causing death is a very serious crime. Many of you have probably read about the tragic case of a young college student who was hit by a car that allegedly fled the scene near University of Miami. The Miami Herald has been covering this story.
Accidents happen. We don't intend for them to happen, which is why they are called "accidents" in the first place. But if we hit another car, or God-forbid a pedestrian, it is a natural reaction to panic. Some people, in this state of panic, will flee.
If you have fled the scene of a crash where the other driver or pedestrian has died, the police will be looking for you. Many police departments have traffic homicide divisions that initiate investigations into LSA cases.
When conducting an LSA investigation, detectives will want to talk to eyewitnesses in order to determine the make and model of the driver's car. They will try to obtain tag information if possible. If eyewitness accounts are not sufficient, the detectives may look to see if video surveillance or a red-light camera may have captured the accident.
If detectives can get a make, model, and tag number, they will do a database search to find out who the registered owner of the car. Once they find the registered owner, they will want to speak with them and inspect the car for evidence of an accident.
You have no obligation to speak to police, and I strongly recommend that you never talk to law enforcement without first consulting a criminal defense attorney. However, police can obtain a search warrant that will permit them to inspect your car. If the police find dents, paint transfer, or any signs that your car has been in a collision with the alleged victim's car, you will be arrested. Unless an eyewitness can say with a high degree of certainty that you were the driver of that car, the State's case will be weak. If nobody can put you behind the wheel, it will be easier to fight the charges. If you confess, however, you have just handed the State their case on a silver platter. They have the victim's death, the description of your car, the damage to your car, and then your own words proving that you were the driver.
Talking to police rarely works to your advantage. Detectives investigating a crime are not out to make friends. They are trying to make an arrest. Don't do anything that may hurt you later on. Please, if you are under investigation for LSA, speak with an attorney ASAP.
If arrested, you can post a bond. LSA with death is a bondable offense and you are legally entitled to a reasonable bond on that charge.
If you haven't done so, retain counsel immediately. Don't go through this process unarmed. The State will be out for blood.