Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Injury or Death is a felony offense. Most people charged with Hit and Run in Fort Walton Beach are surprised to learn that under Florida law, there is a duty to give information and render aid to anyone who is injured in an accident that you’ve been involved in.
What are the requirements that must be fulfilled after an accident?
Florida Statute 316.062 requires that anyone that has been involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to anyone must provide their name, address, registration number of their vehicle, and their driver’s license. They must also render aid to any person injured in the crash.
My name is Tim Flaherty. Along with my partner Brandy Merrifield, we defend clients accused of Hit and Run in Fort Walton Beach. Call us at (850) 243-6097 and we’ll help you.
The police think I was involved in a hit and run and now they want to talk to me. What should I do?
When someone is hurt or killed in an accident, the police face tremendous pressure to find those responsible and punish them. They will talk to witnesses, pull traffic cams, and conduct a thorough investigation to close the case. If somehow the police end up knocking on your door or calling you to “answer a few questions”, that means they think you are guilty of something.
Do not agree to talk to the police without talking to an attorney first.
Are there different levels of Leaving the Scene/Hit and Run in Fort Walton Beach?
There are three levels of Hit and Run charges: Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Injury, Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Serious Bodily Injury, and Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Death.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident—with Injury in Fort Walton Beach
Florida Statute 316.027(2)(a) states that:
“the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash which results in injury to a person other than serious bodily injury shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, and shall remain at the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of Statute 316.062. A person who willfully violates this section commits a felony of the third degree.”
Because this offense is a third degree felony, it carries a potential five year prison sentence. Also, if you are convicted, your driver’s license will be suspended for at least 3 years.
Under Florida sentencing guidelines, Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Injury is a Level 5 offense with 28 points. Standing alone, this is below the 44 point threshold for a mandatory prison sentence. However, if the State addes extra points for either moderate or severe injury, the sentence would be calculated as follows:
With moderate injury points:
28 points + 18 moderate injury points = 46. 46 – 28 = 18. 18 x 0.75 = 13.5 months in prison.
With severe injury points:
28 points + 40 severe injury points = 68. 68 – 28 = 40. 40 x 0.75 = 30 months in prison.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident—with Serious Bodily Injury
Florida Statute 316.027(1)(a) defines Serious Bodily Injury as:
“an injury to a person, including the driver, which consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.”
As a second degree felony, this charge is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If convicted, you will also face at least a 3 year suspension of your driver’s license.
This charge is a Level 6 offense with 36 points which is below the 44 point threshold for a mandatory prison sentence, but if the State adds victim injury points, a prison sentence becomes a real possibility. Here are a couple scenarios:
With moderate injury points:
36 points + 18 moderate injury points = 54. 54 – 28 = 26. 26 x 0.75 = 19.5 months in prison.
With severe injury points:
36 points + 40 severe injury points = 76. 76 – 28 = 48. 48 x 0.75 = 36 months in prison.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident—with Death in Fort Walton Beach
If you were involved in an accident in Fort Walton Beach where someone died and you failed to remain at the scene to give your information and render aid, you will likely be charged with this offense.
Leaving the Scene with Death is a first degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. One key difference with cases involving a death is that this charge also carries a four year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment.
Leaving the Scene with Death is a Level 7 offense with 56 points. The State can also add an additional 120 points for a death. The sentence would be calculated as follows:
56 points + 120 death points = 176. 176 – 28 = 148. 148 x 0.75 = 111 months (9.25 years).
With a guideline sentence of 9.25 years, the only way to serve less would be if your attorney can convince the Judge to give you a Downward Departure sentence. However, with a Leaving the Scene with Death conviction, there is also a 4 year mandatory sentence. No one, not even the judge, can go below a mandatory sentence. That means that if you are convicted, you will be sentenced to at least 4 years in prison.
That’s why it is so important to do everything possible to avoid a conviction.
Defending Hit and Run Cases in Fort Walton Beach
I’ve been a criminal defense attorney in Fort Walton Beach since 2001. My partner, Brandy Merrifield, has worked with me since 2007. Criminal defense is the only type of law we have ever practiced. We will carefully review every aspect of your case and build a defense that gives you the best possible chance of avoiding a felony conviction and a prison sentence. Here are a few examples:
- In Leaving the Scene with Serious Bodily Injury cases, whether the injury is serious enough to be considered serious bodily injury. Not every injury will qualify. For example, we successfully defended one of these cases where the injury was two broken legs. After filing a motion to dismiss, the court ruled that the injuries were not serious enough to be considered serious bodily injury.
- In each of the three levels of Hit and Run cases in Fort Walton Beach, the prosecutor is required to prove that the suspect willfully committed the crime. This means they must prove that the suspect knew or should have known that the crash occurred AND that an injury or death resulted.
- Is a Downward Departure sentence a possibility? As discussed earlier, if there was a death, the mandatory sentence of 4 years applies no matter what. But, in cases involving injury, it IS possible to argue for a Downward Departure. In such cases, we will present a comprehensive argument to the Judge that you qualify for a lesser sentence than the sentencing guidelines would otherwise require. You can read more about this on our Felony Sentencing page by click here.
This is where a Fort Walton Beach felony traffic offense attorney with expertise can make all the difference in the outcome. We will carefully examine the police reports and witness statements to determine whether we can raise a credible argument that you didn’t know anyone was injured or had died. Being able to raise this argument puts your case in a much more favorable negotiating position and it also gives you a realistic chance of winning at trial.
Contact an Okaloosa County Felony Traffic Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one have been charged with a felony traffic offense in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 403-6835 for a free consultation.