HARSHER PENALTIES FOR LEAVING SCENE OF ACCIDENT
Florida recently made changes in the law in an effort to crack down on drivers who leave the scene of an accident. The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act now makes it a felony to flee the scene after a crash involving death or serious bodily injury with an automatic prison sentence.
The purpose of the new law is to provide harsher penalties to people who take off after a crash. Under the old law, there was no minimum prison sentence for drivers who leave the scene of an accident. For example, a drunk driver who kills someone faces a minimum of four (4) years in jail. But if the driver flees the scene and law enforcement can’t prove the driver was drunk, the only provable charge would be leaving the scene of an accident, which has no minimum mandatory sentence. Therefore, drivers were encouraged to flee in order to avoid harsher penalties. There was no incentive to stop and render aid. Now, the driver is looking at the same penalty if he or she fails to stop.
Under the law, a driver involved in an accident is required to stop and give reasonable assistance to any injured person. The driver is also required to provide all pertinent information such as their name, driver’s license number, and insurance information. If the other party is severely injured or incapacitated, the driver is required to report the crash to police and help the person get medical attention.
If a driver is involved in a crash with serious bodily injury and flees, he or she will be looking at a second degree felony with a prison sentence up to 15 years. If there is a death involved, the driver is facing a first degree felony with a minimum mandatory prison term of four (4) years and could receive up to 30 years in prison. Also, the driver will have his or her license revoked for a period of at least three (3) years.
If a drunk driver hits and kills someone, he or she will be charged with DUI manslaughter, which is a second degree felony punishable up to 15 years in prison. Recently, Florida law added a minimum mandatory four (4) year prison sentence on all DUI manslaughter convictions. Minimum mandatory sentences must be served day-for-day with no gain time. But the four (4) year minimum mandatory really isn’t the bottom of the prison sentence. Under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code guideline schedule, a defendant convicted of DUI manslaughter can expect to receive around 10 to 12 years prison on the low end. It also comes with a mandatory lifetime driver’s license suspension.
These penalties only apply if a driver is convicted of a crime. The State has to prove all the elements of the charge(s), including the identity of the driver. It is never a good idea to drink and drive, no matter how sober you feel. The State will push for the maximum sentence if there is evidence of drunk driving. If you are involved in an accident, you must stop, render aid and provide information. You do not need to make admissions or statements regarding the accident. If you find yourself in that situation, call your attorney for advice.
by Shannon Padgett