In Palm Beach County, a 26-year old Loxahatchee woman has been arrested and charged in the hit-and-run death of a woman. The incident occurred back in February but the accused has just been arrested. The delay is not uncommon in LSA (leaving the scene of an accident) with death cases.
In order to charge a person with leaving the scene of an accident, there must be witnesses who can place the accused behind the wheel of the car. In some instances, if the accused confesses to police, simply the proof that a fatal crash occurred coupled with the accused's statement is enough for charges to be filed.
If no witnesses are available and the accused does not confess, police may look to surveillance video, such as red-light cameras, to see if a driver can be identified.
Physical evidence, such as damage to a vehicle and the alleged victim's blood or tissue on the suspect vehicle is highly incriminating evidence in these types of cases.
In this particular case, the accused came forward several days after the incident and provided a statement to the police. The police also inspected the accused's car and determined that the damage was consistent with the fatal crash that killed the alleged victim.
Leaving the scene of an accident with death is a first-degree felony in Florida punishable by up to 30 years in state prison.
Florida law requires that all people involved in a car accident remain on scene to exchange information and if necessary, contact emergency services.
Remember - getting into a car crash, even a fatal crash, is not a crime by itself. It only becomes a crime if you were committing a crime while operating the car, such as reckless driving, DUI, or driving with a suspended license.
Leaving the scene of an accident can be a second-degree misdemeanor if only property damage occurs. The crime becomes a felony when serious bodily injury occurs (third-degree felony) and, of course, when a person dies (first-degree felony).
Eric Matheny represents clients charged with all levels of hit-and-run offenses in Miami-Dade and Broward.