When you are involved in leaving the scene of an accident, there are several steps that will occur in the investigation process. Unless you are arrested or issued a promise to appear (PTA) on scene, you may become the subject of a prolonged investigation.
Many times in a leaving the scene of an accident (LSA) incident, the accused is not arrested immediately. Somebody may allegedly observe you strike another car, they may take down your tag number, and may call police. This is the first step in the investigation process; the police report.
Insight into the Police Report
The police will make a report. They will speak with witnesses and/or the alleged victim(s), they will obtain as much detailed information about your car as possible. Year, make, model, color, tag number. In addition to that, they will try to get as much detailed information about you. What do you look like? Can the witness positively identify that you were the driver of the car?
Now LSA can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on what has happened. Serious bodily injury or death is a felony. Property damage is a misdemeanor. The depth of the investigation will depend on the severity.
Death or serious bodily injury? Expect the news to come out and publish information about the suspect vehicle all over the county. This is a big deal.
No injuries or death, just some property damage? The case will be assigned to an investigator and that's probably it. But don't take it lightly. You are not out of the woods yet.
The Police Investigation
The police will run the vehicle information through a database using the tag and VIN (vehicle identification number). They will find out who the car is registered to and then look up that person's information through the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles database. They will get an address. Then they will send you a letter.
The letter you receive, about 7-10 days after the accident, will be from the investigating agency. This is typically the police department. The department will advise you that you are the subject of an LSA investigation and that they need to speak with you within 10 days.
It’s Time to Get Serious
Okay. Now this is serious. This is when you drop everything and contact a Miami leaving the scene of an accident attorney, or Broward leaving the scene of an accident attorney, depending on where you are.
You contact an attorney for several reasons. First and foremost, you are the subject of a criminal investigation. The police will want to inspect your car. They will want to talk to you.
When you read your letter, you will see that nowhere does it say, "Hey, feel free to contact an attorney before responding."
Of course the cops won't say that. They don't have to. And they don't want you to. Police want to talk to you and they understand that a criminal defense attorney will strongly advise you not to.
Contact an Attorney Today!
Once you contact an attorney, your attorney can respond to the letter. The response typically tells the police department that the accused is asserting his or her rights and will not speak to the police under any circumstances.
Now the police may want to inspect the vehicle. You and your attorney can go to the police station to permit an inspection of the car, but you do not have to answer questions or speak to any member of law enforcement.
Upon an inspection of the car, the investigating officer may issue you a non-criminal citation for leaving the scene of an accident without providing information. On the other hand, the investigating officer may issue you a PTA for the criminal offense of leaving the scene of an accident.
It’s Time to Prepare Your Defense
Once the PTA is issued, you are formally charged with a crime. A PTA is a charging document and your speedy trial clock starts ticking the moment it is issued. You and your attorney now can prepare your defense and hopefully get the charges dismissed.
Remember - just because the police charge you with a crime does not mean that you are guilty. You are presumed innocent and have the right to demand a trial. Police officers sometimes perform very cursory, weak investigations that are later proven to be flawed. A good defense attorney recognizes weak evidence and can use it to get your charges dismissed.
So if you get that letter from the police telling you that you are under investigation for leaving the scene of an accident, call me.