Leaving the scene of an accident (LSA) is a common criminal traffic offense in Florida. It can either be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the level of injury.
LSA involving death or injury is governed by Florida Statute 316.027. The law states that "the driver of any vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property that results in injury of any person must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and must remain at the scene of the crash..." A violation of this law is a felony of the third degree, punishable by 5 years in state prison.
If it is alleged that a person has died, the law states that, "the driver of any vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property that results in the death of any person must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and must remain at the scene of the crash..." A violation of this section is a first degree felony, punishable by 30 years in state prison.
As a misdemeanor, an LSA is simply that: leaving the scene of a traffic accident where there is no serious injury, just property damage.
The misdemeanor offense is defined by statute as requiring "the driver of any vehicle involved in a crash resulting only in damage to a vehicle or other property which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such crash or as close thereto as possible, and shall forthwith return to, and in every
event shall remain at, the scene of the crash..." A violation of this section is a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days in jail.
An LSA can instantly turn into a high-profile matter. In recent weeks, many fatal accidents have been reported in the local media.
For instance, today on www.wsvn.com, there is a story about a bicyclist who was killed in an apparent hit-and-run in Hollywood.
Additionally, you have probably heard about the death of 71-year old Ana Zuniga, who died in a collision where the driver of the other car fled the scene. Click here to read the store on www.local10.com.
Traffic accidents that do not involve reckless driving, driving with a suspended license, or impairment by drugs or alcohol are typically non-criminal. While the at-fault party may be cited for a traffic infraction, there is no criminal liability.
In other words, if you simply get into an accident, you cannot be held criminally responsible because no crime has been committed. Once you leave the scene of that accident, however, you are now committing a crime.
But people panic. We are all human. I have seen legitimate panic, too, such as female drivers fleeing the scene of an accident because the aggressive male whose car they accidently hit is coming after them. There is always an explanation for why somebody does what they do.
But LSA is treated as a serious crime in Florida. Don't wait to contact a criminal defense attorney, especially if you have not yet been arrested but the police are actively looking for you. It is much better to retain an attorney, negotiate a surrender, post a bond, and get on with fighting your case.
Besides, retaining an attorney pre-arrest will permit you to assert yourself to law enforcement, telling them that you are not going to speak to them or do anything that could incriminate you. Police love to take advantage of unrepresented defendants. Once you have a lawyer, police tend to back off.
If you or a loved one are facing allegations of a hit-and-run, call me.