If you are looking for an attorney to help you with a speeding ticket, an expired tag, or a suspended driver’s license, this page will not be very helpful. However, if you are under investigation or have been charged with a felony traffic crime in Fort Walton Beach or Okaloosa County, keep reading.
Felony traffic offenses such as Hit and Run, Fleeing and Eluding, DUI with Injury, and DUI Manslaughter are often committed by people who have never been in trouble before—good people who never in a million years thought they would need to hire a criminal defense attorney. We understand that you are scared and worried about what’s going to happen. Whether you are a local Fort Walton Beach resident, a military member, or a visitor from out of town, you have come to the right place to get the help you need.
We Don’t Judge—We Defend
My name is Tim Flaherty. I’ve been a Fort Walton Beach felony traffic offense lawyer since 2001. My partner Brandy Merrifield has worked with me since 2007. We focus our practice 100 percent on criminal defense, and we’re ready to help you through this difficult time.
What to Do If You’re Under Investigation for a Felony Traffic Offense
If you are being investigated for Hit and Run/Leaving the Scene of an Accident or DUI With Injury or Death, our number-one piece of advice is: do not talk to the police. You have the right to remain silent, and you should exercise that right at all times.
Our second piece of advice is to pick up the phone and call Flaherty & Merrifield. We can offer a layer of protection by telling the police you are represented by an attorney. Once the police know that you have legal representation, they are not allowed to talk to you or try to manipulate you into incriminating yourself. This can make a huge difference in the eventual outcome of your case.
Felony Traffic Offenses in Florida
Any of the following felony traffic offenses in Fort Walton Beach or Okaloosa County can lead to a lengthy prison sentence and/or a permanent felony conviction on your record.
Hit and Run/Leaving the Scene of an Accident
When someone is in an accident where a person was injured or killed, the law requires you to remain at the scene to exchange information and to render aid to anyone who has been hurt. If you are accused of leaving the scene before the police arrive, you will be charged with Leaving the Scene of an Accident. If there was an injury, the charge is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. If there was serious bodily injury, the charge is a second-degree felony with a potential 15-year prison sentence. If there was a death, the charge is a first-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison per death.
In order to convict you of Leaving the Scene of an Accident, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you left the scene knowing that an accident had occurred and that someone had been injured or killed.
Fleeing and Eluding
When the police are trying to pull you over, they expect you to comply right away. If you don’t, they could charge you with Fleeing or Attempting to Elude Law Enforcement. This charge is a felony offense under Florida law. In order to convict, the state must prove that the driver willfully failed to pull over after being ordered to do so by an officer in a clearly-marked patrol vehicle that had its lights and siren activated.
Fleeing or Eluding is a third-degree felony with a potential five-year prison sentence. If the state alleges that you fled from the police at a high rate of speed that put the other drivers on the road at risk, you face a second-degree felony with a maximum 15-year prison sentence. If someone died or suffered a serious injury during the high-speed chase, the maximum sentence is raised to 30 years in prison with a mandatory minimum of three years in prison.
DUI With Serious Bodily Injury
In addition to the regular elements of a DUI charge, the state will be required to prove that the victim suffered injuries likely to cause great bodily harm or permanent disfigurement. Broken bones, or even injuries that required surgery, will not necessarily qualify as serious bodily injury.
DUI With Serious Bodily Injury is a third-degree felony punishable by five years in prison. Under Florida sentencing guidelines, it carries a minimum sentence of 21 months in prison if convicted.
If the state can prove that you were intoxicated to the point that your normal faculties were impaired and that you caused an accident that led to someone dying, you face the charge of DUI Manslaughter.
Under Florida law, DUI Manslaughter is a second-degree felony with a potential penalty of 15 years in prison. If you fled the scene of the accident or failed to assist a victim at the scene, the maximum penalty is increased to 30 years in prison.
Discuss Your Case With an Experienced Florida Felony Traffic Offense Defense Attorney
These charges shouldn’t be taken lightly. They demand a careful and thoughtfully planned defense strategy. At Flaherty & Merrifield, we’ve been defending Fort Walton Beach residents, military personnel, and out-of-town visitors since 2001. We know what is at stake and how important it is to get this right. If you’ve been charged with Hit and Run, Fleeing and Eluding, DUI with Serious Bodily Injury, or DUI Manslaughter, call us at 850-374-6273 or complete our contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.