If You Hit, Don't Run
A friend of mine recently called me for advice after she was in an accident. Long story short, she was driving down the road when the driver in front of her slammed on his brakes, and she rear-ended him. She initially stopped, but the other driver became so aggressive toward her that she got back in her vehicle and drove away. She later was contacted by police and given a citation for leaving the scene of an accident with property damage. “What does this mean?” she asked. Well, it means several things:
If you are in an accident where property has been damaged, you must stop
and provide your information.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident is commonly referred to as a “hit & run.” Florida Statutes 316.061 and 316.062 provide that if you are in an accident involving property damage, you must stop and remain at the scene until information is exchanged and aid is rendered. You must also ensure that the vehicles are stopped such that they do not block the flow of traffic. If you “run,” you have violated the law.
If you receive a citation for leaving the scene of an accident involving
property damage, it is a criminal offense.
Leaving the scene of an accident with property damage is a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. The charges will appear on your criminal record, unless you qualify to have the charges expunged or sealed, and having a criminal record could impact your ability to do certain things in the future, such as getting a job or adopting a child.
You have a mandatory court date, and you will appear before a Judge.
This isn’t the same as a traffic violation, where you are given the option to contest the ticket or pay the fine (as an admission of guilt). Because this is a criminal offense, you must appear before a Judge to plead your case. You can present evidence, negotiate a settlement with the prosecuting attorney, or immediately plead guilty or no contest and receive a penalty. No matter how you go about it, the case will end with a decision by a Judge.
You don’t have to go through it alone.
Facing criminal charges of any kind can be overwhelming. An experienced attorney can not only guide you through the process, but also help prepare you for life after the case. An attorney can offer you options for how to move forward, including helping you assess whether you are a candidate for sealing or expunction of the charges.