Leaving the Scene of An Accident in Florida (Penalties & Defense)

David Weisselberger | December 4, 2023

Case Category

Traffic accidents can be chaotic and disorienting events. In the aftermath, emotions run high, and individuals involved may not always make the best decisions. Unfortunately, leaving the scene of an accident, known as a hit and run, is a serious offense under Florida law. 

In this guide, we will uncover the intricacies of Florida Statutes Sections 316.061316.063, exploring the definition of hit and run, the specific penalties outlined in Section 316.061, and the nuanced implications when injury or death is involved.

What Is Leaving the Scene of An Accident in Florida?

what is leaving the scene of accident in florida

Leaving the Scene of An Accident in Florida outlines the legal framework for dealing with individuals who leave the scene of an accident. These statutes define the obligations of parties involved in a crash and the penalties for failing to fulfill these responsibilities. Section 316.061 outlines explicitly the obligation for a driver engaged in a collision to stay at the scene, furnish identification, and offer reasonable assistance to individuals harmed in the incident.

Hit and run occurs when a driver involved in a collision fails to fulfill their legal obligations. These obligations include stopping at the scene, exchanging information with the other parties involved, and assisting those who may be injured. Fleeing the scene without fulfilling these responsibilities is a violation of the law.

What Are the Penalties for Leaving the Scene in Florida?

Florida Statute Section 316.061 outlines the penalties for fleeing a scene of an accident. The penalties’ severity depends on the damage’s extent and whether there are injuries or fatalities. In cases where the accident involves only property damage, leaving the scene is considered a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by fines and potential imprisonment.

When an accident injures someone, the offense is heightened to a third-degree felony. This is a more serious charge, and the penalties are substantially increased. A driver convicted of a third-degree felony hit and run could face significant fines, probation, and a lengthy prison sentence.

In cases where the accident results in the death of a person, leaving the scene becomes a first-degree felony. The penalties for a first-degree felony are the most severe, including substantial fines and the potential for a lengthy prison sentence.

What Are the Elements of Florida's Hit and Run Law?

To understand hit and run laws in Florida, it’s essential to examine the specific elements that constitute the offense. The key components include:

  • Duty to Stop: Florida law requires drivers involved in a crash to stop immediately at the scene or as close as possible to the scene.
  • Exchange of Information: After stopping, drivers must exchange information with the other parties involved in the crash. This includes names, addresses, vehicle registration numbers, and driver’s license information if requested.
  • Rendering Assistance: Drivers must provide reasonable assistance to anyone injured in the accident. This may involve arranging for medical help or transportation to a medical facility.

Reporting to Law Enforcement: In certain circumstances, drivers are required to report the crash to law enforcement. This typically applies to accidents that result in injuries or fatalities.

What Are the Defense Strategies for Leaving the Scene of an Accident?

If you find yourself facing charges for leaving the scene of an accident, seeking legal guidance is imperative. Various defense strategies may be employed to navigate the legal complexities associated with hit and run cases:

  • Lack of Knowledge: In some cases, the defense may argue that the driver was unaware of an accident. This could be relevant when the collision was minor and the driver did not perceive any immediate consequences.
  • Emergency Circumstances: The defense may assert that the driver left the scene due to a genuine emergency, such as a medical crisis. While this does not excuse the failure to fulfill legal obligations, it could be a mitigating factor in the overall context of the case.
  • Mistaken Identity: The defense may present evidence suggesting that the authorities have identified the wrong person as the responsible party. Eyewitness testimony, surveillance footage, or other corroborating evidence may be crucial in establishing an alibi.
  • Fear or Intimidation: In some instances, drivers may leave the scene due to fear or intimidation, especially in situations involving road rage or threats from other parties involved in the accident. This could be a factor in the defense strategy, emphasizing the need for a thorough investigation into the incident’s circumstances.
  • Cooperation with Authorities: Demonstrating a willingness to cooperate with law enforcement and take responsibility for the actions can mitigate the legal process. Voluntarily reporting the incident to the police after realizing the mistake may be considered positive by the court.

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Can you sue someone for hit-and-run in Florida?

Yes, you can sue someone for a hit-and-run in Florida. Victims may pursue civil action to seek compensation for damages resulting from the incident. 

How long does a hit-and-run stay on your record in Florida?

The duration a hit-and-run stays on your record in Florida varies. It depends on factors such as the severity of the offense and any legal actions taken. 

What type of crime is leaving the scene of an accident in Florida?

In Florida, leaving the scene of an accident is considered a criminal offense. The severity of the crime is categorized as either a second or third-degree felony, depending on whether the accident involves injuries, fatalities, or only property damage.  

How many points for leaving the scene of an accident in Florida?

The number of points for leaving the scene of an accident in Florida depends on the circumstances. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles assigns points for traffic violations.

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