If you or a family member become involved in a hit-and-run accident while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the driver can face several criminal charges. As we all understand, driving when under the influence of any intoxicating substance is very dangerous. Compounding the seriousness of a DUI by having an accident enhances the penalties, especially if someone other than the driver is seriously injured or killed.
If a DUI driver is involved in an accident in which someone else is seriously injured, and then leaves the scene without rendering aid or providing identification, then the driver could hardly have put themselves in a more precarious legal situation.
Anyone in such a situation should immediately contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer who is thoroughly prepared to defend against the additional serious criminal charges. At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, we have many years of experience defending clients charged with DUI alone and when combined with other very serious offenses, even DUI manslaughter.
As with most criminal offenses, the severity of the penalty is directly related to the amount of harm resulting from the crime.
Defending DUI Hit and Run Charges
Experienced criminal defense lawyers will work to defend not only the DUI element of the charges but can also defend against the violation of the law requiring a driver to stop at the scene of an accident.
For this blog post, we’ll concentrate on the Hit and Run aspect since DUI defense is addressed in other posts.
To convict someone of Hit and Run, the prosecutor must prove each of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant was the driver of a vehicle in a crash
- They knew or should have known (by circumstances) that they were in a crash
- Resulted in either property damage, injury, serious injury, or death
- They knew or should have known crash caused another either property damage, injury, serious injury, or death
- They willfully failed to stop and stay as close as possible to the accident scene and identify themselves to the driver, injured person, or police officer
- (in cases of injury, serious injury, or death, failed to render reasonable assistance, if apparently necessary or requested to do so).
There are several significant issues that may be contested by a qualified Hit and Run defense lawyer. Did the circumstances of the accident put the defendant on notice that there was injury or serious injury? If the evidence only indicates reasonable notice of likely property damage only, then the penalty would be limited to violation of that statutory clause.
Florida Law, Requires You to Stop and Remain at the Accident Scene
Hit and Run with Property Damage Only
The law in Florida (F.S. 316.061) requires any driver who is involved in an accident with property damage to stay at the scene of the accident.
The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash resulting only in damage to a vehicle or other property which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such crash or as close thereto as possible, and shall forthwith return to, and in every event shall remain at, the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of s. 316.062. Failure to do so is a 2nd-degree misdemeanor carrying up to 60 days in jail and fines and restitution.
The requirements of F.S. 316.062 include the following:
- give their name, address, and the registration number of the vehicle they are driving
- upon request and if available exhibit his or her license or permit to drive to the other driver, any injured person, and to any police officer investigating the crash
- if any person is injured,
- render reasonable assistance, including transporting them or arranging for their transport to medical treatment, if the person so requests.
Hit and Run with Serious Injury
Even a sober driver who leaves the scene of an accident in which others suffered serious injury is facing a major 2nd-degree felony carrying up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
DUI HIT & RUN with PERSONAL INJURY carries a
Mandatory Minimum 4 Years in Prison
If a DUI driver leaves the scene of the accident in which someone was seriously injured, the 1st-degree felony is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and that driver must be sentenced to at least 4 years in prison if convicted of the crime.
Hit and Run with Injury Other than Serious Injury
Leaving the scene of an accident in which someone suffers any injury not deemed “serious” is a 3rd-degree felony under Florida law and carries a maximum penalty of up to 5 years in state prison and a $5,000 fine, in addition to license revocation and other sanctions.
What Counts as a “Serious” Injury?
The seriousness of the other person’s injury makes a big difference in what possible sentence could be imposed after a conviction. Florida statute § 316.1933(b) defines a “serious” an “injury to any 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 any bodily member or organ.”
An injury can be deemed serious if the injured person suffers a broken arm because it is a “protracted loss of function.” That’s how it quickly becomes evident that almost any accident can result in a serious injury to someone.
DUI Only (No Accident)
Let’s look at DUI alone. The penalty for 1st offense DUI in Florida ranges from up to 6 months in jail and a fine of between $500 and $1,000 along with a license revocation lasting between 6 months and one year.
DUI with Property Damage (Staying at Accident Scene)
Now, if the facts of the defendant’s DUI case include causing or even contributing to the cause of an accident in which someone else’s property was damaged, the DUI’s possible jail sentence doubles, from a maximum of 6 months to a maximum of 1 year. Of course, restitution for the property damage is also required, as are the other usual DUI fines and license revocations. These penalties assume that the DUI driver who caused the damage remained at the scene of the accident.
DUI Hit and Run (Leaving the Scene of a DUI Accident with Property Damage Only)
Leaving the scene of a DUI accident (DUI Hit and Run) with property damage only makes the offense a 1st-degree misdemeanor carrying a potential jail sentence of up to 1 year.
If the same accident occurred causing property damage without a DUI component, a 2nd-degree misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is 60 days in jail. The DUI element raises the stakes by 600 percent.
If you have been involved in a DUI hit and run accident, call our DUI defense attorneys at Stechschulte Nell at 813-280-1244. We are ready to defend your case.