As tempting as it might seem to escape liability for a collision, it is never in anyone’s best interests to hit someone and run. Hit-and-run is a serious crime in Florida that can come with life-changing repercussions. Leaving the scene of an accident without fulfilling one’s duties to the other party could result in dire penalties, including thousands of dollars in fines and years in a state prison. Before you make the life-changing decision to flee the scene of an auto accident, understand the full consequences of your actions.
About 25% of all auto accidents in Florida are hit-and-runs. Many hit-and-run violators in Florida, however, may not have meant to commit the crime. Plenty of Florida’s drivers may not fully understand their responsibilities according to the state’s hit-and-run laws. If you struck a parked vehicle with no one inside, you must still stop and leave your information. Try to find the owner of the vehicle, if possible. If you give a reasonable effort to find the driver but cannot, you must leave a note on the vehicle you struck with your full name, address, and license plate number. Write legibly!
If you struck a vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian and caused injuries, pull over and call for medical help immediately. The law obligates you to stop at the scene of the crash, check others for injuries, and call 911 to ask for help if someone has injuries. You must remain at the scene of the crash until help arrives. Leaving before police show up is a hit-and-run, even if you reported the collision. In Florida, you have to report an accident to police if it results in injuries, deaths, or more than $500 worth of property damage. You can only lawfully leave an accident once police arrive and say you’re free to go.
As of July 2014, the penalties for hitting someone and running increased in Florida. The passing of the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act created a mandatory minimum four-year sentence for drivers convicted in fatal hit-and-run crashes. Lawmakers named the law after Aaron Cohen, a 31-year-old bicyclist who died in a DUI hit-and-run accident in central Florida. Aaron left two children behind when a drunk driver fatally struck him and took off. After police caught the driver, Michele Traverso, the courts only gave him the minimum sentence – two years in prison and house arrest.
Had the courts convicted Traverso for DUI manslaughter, he would have received a much worse sentence. Thanks to campaigners who helped to pass the Aaron Cohen Act, at-fault drivers who are guilty of fatal hit-and-runs now face a minimum of four years in state prison. Other penalties will vary depending upon the severity of the crash. If someone leaves the scene of a property-damage only crash, it is a second-degree misdemeanor. This crime comes with a $500 fine and up to 60 days in prison.
Leaving the scene of an accident that injures someone is a second- or third-degree felony in Florida. Drivers guilty of this crime face a minimum of three years with a revoked license, a $5,000 fine, and up to five years in prison. If the accident kills someone, it is a first-degree felony (the most serious type of crime in Florida). These drivers face mandatory prison time of four to 30 years, a $10,000 fine, and a revoked license for at least three years. If you played a part in a crash, stay on the scene and call 911. You could avoid serious penalties and – most importantly – save a life.