Hit and Run Crimes in Pasco County
After a traffic crash with property damage or personal injury, DO NOT leave the scene until you have provided a copy of your driver’s license, insurance, and registration to anyone involved in the crash or the investigating officer writing the crash report.
If you left the accident scene in Pasco County, FL, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. An attorney can help you determine what you should do next.
The officer might be looking for you and planning a surprise visit to your home or office to interrogate you.
The investigator’s goal is to get a full confession so that the crime can be prosecuted. On the other hand, a criminal defense attorney can help you invoke your right to remain silent to avoid incriminating yourself.
Suppose the police are looking for you now. In that case, you can hire an attorney to send a letter to the investigating officer explaining that you are invoking your right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment and your right to have an attorney under the Sixth Amendment.
The attorney can explain your side of the story and provide your insurance information. Your attorney can also help you deal with your insurance company and the insurance company for anyone else involved in the crash.
How often do the police find the hit-and-run driver? Local law enforcement agencies will investigate the crime as soon as they know which vehicle was involved in the crash or who might have been driving that vehicle.
Many of the local law enforcement agencies in Pasco County, FL, have an entire “hit and run” unit or investigator devoted to these types of cases, including:
- the New Port Richey Police Department
- the Port Richey Police Department
- the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office
- the Florida Highway Patrol
Attorneys for Hit and Run in New Port Richey, FL
The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are focused on criminal defense with an emphasis on crimes that occur in a vehicle.
Those traffic crimes include DUI, hit and run, leaving the scene of a crash, street racing, and fleeing to elude a law enforcement officer.
Our main office is in downtown Tampa, FL, and we have a second office in New Port Richey, across from the courthouse at the West Pasco Judicial Center.
We are familiar with the policies and procedures used by local law enforcement in West Pasco, including the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the New Port Richey Police Department, the Port Richey Police Department, and the Florida Highway Patrol.
From a misdemeanor hit and run after a fender bender to a felony charge for leaving the scene of an accident with injury or death, we have handled these types of cases for at least the past ten years.
If you made a mistake by leaving the scene of the accident, don’t make another mistake by trying to represent yourself once the criminal investigation begins.
Call us at 727-807-6392.
Types of Hit and Run Charges
In some cases, the investigating officer might obtain a probable cause warrant for the suspect’s arrest in the hit-and-run case, especially if anyone was injured in the crash.
The penalties for the crime depend on the type of harm caused by the crash, including:
- damage to unattended property under Section 316.063 (a fence, telephone pole, or parked car);
- damage to attended property under Section 316.061 (another occupied vehicle driving down the road);
- non-serious personal injury;
- serious bodily injury; or
Even if you just hit a parked car with no one inside, you can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor for leaving the crash scene with damage to unattended property.
Leaving the scene of a crash with an occupied vehicle is also a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
If anyone was injured in the crash and you left the scene, you can be charged with a felony in the second or third degree. Penalties include revocation of your driver’s license for at least three years, up to five years in prison, and a $5,000 fine.
If anyone dies due to the crash and you leave the scene, you can be charged with a first-degree felony. The penalties include a driver’s license revocation for at least three years, a mandatory minimum of 4 years in prison, up to 30 years in prison, and a $10,000 fine.
The Hit and Run Investigation Process
The investigation process for a hit-and-run case in Florida begins with interviewing witnesses or obtaining surveillance video of the crash if there are no witnesses.
The process of completing the investigation can take a few hours or a few weeks.
The initial report provides information that can be sued to help the latent investigators in their tasks, including:
- the vehicle color, description, and location of damage;
- any information that further describes the suspect vehicle (such as antennas, wheel covers, dents, mirrors, etc.);
- a description of the suspect driver;
- whether or not the victim/witnesses can identify the suspect;
- the registration of the suspect vehicle; and
- whether or not the registered owner was contacted.
After the investigating officer gathers evidence showing who was driving during the crash, the officer will travel to that person’s home or business to interrogate them about what happened.
How long does the criminal investigation take? Sometimes the investigator knocks on the suspect’s door immediately after the crash. In other cases, it might take the investigator days or weeks to knock on the suspect’s door.
When the officer finds the driver, the officer will interrogate the suspect to find out the following:
- who was driving at the time of the crash;
- whether the driver knew that a crash occurred;
- whether the driver knew that the crash caused property damage or personal injury; and
- why the driver failed to stop or remain at the scene.
In many of these cases, the investigator will find a motive for leaving the scene, which might include the following:
- having a suspended driver’s license;
- not having insurance;
- having contraband in the vehicle (a firearm, drugs, or open containers of alcohol);
- being impaired by drugs or alcohol; or
- having an outstanding arrest warrant.
What Happens if You Leave the Scene of a Hit and Run with a Parked Car?
How much damage is required to trigger the requirement to stop and remain at the scene if you hit a parked car? If no damage occurred, you are not required to stop.
But even minor vehicle contact might cause more than $50 damage. That damage will trigger the statutory requirements that you stop at the scene and fulfill your reporting requirements by providing your name and insurance information.
If you leave the scene, an attorney can help you decide how to deal with the incident. When appropriate, the attorney can assist you in reporting the vehicle’s involvement in the crash.
When done properly, the information provided by your attorney on your behalf can NOT be used against you in a criminal prosecution.
Felony Hit and Run with Injury
If you left the scene of a crash causing serious bodily injury or death, then a felony investigation is underway. If the police have any evidence to show that you were driving at the time of the crash, then it is likely that the officer will make contact with you in the coming days.
The more serious the charge, the more important it is to take a proactive approach and have an attorney represent you at all stages of the case.
In felony hit-and-run cases, the investigating officer might call in a “72-hour bolo” to the pick-up desk and document the bolo in the report if the suspect vehicle can be identified.
Probable cause for placing the bolo requires sufficient evidence to identify the suspect vehicle. If the investigator finds the vehicle, they might impound it and put a hold on it so that you can’t get it out of the impound lot.
Can the Detective Put a Hold on the Vehicle?
If you left your vehicle at the crash scene and ran on foot, the detective might put a police “hold” on the vehicle. Part of the reason for the hold is that the registered owner might contact the law enforcement agency to get the hold lifted. This procedure makes it easier for the investigating officer to find the registered owner.
If the registered owner admits to driving the vehicle when the crash occurred, that person can be charged with the hit and run.
If the registered owner claims they were not driving, the investigator will ask questions to determine who was driving.
In these cases with a hold on the vehicle, a criminal defense attorney can contact the investigating officer on your behalf to release the hold.
In some cases, the hold on the vehicle will not be released. Those cases include a traffic fatality, a serious injury crash where the victim is not expected to live, or there is evidence in the vehicle or evidence of the vehicle being used in other crimes.
Hit and Run Involving a Phantom Vehicle
Under Florida law, it is theoretically possible to maneuver your vehicle so carelessly or recklessly that it causes another vehicle to crash.
For example, suppose you change lanes abruptly without using your turn signal or looking out for other traffic. In that case, that action might cause another vehicle to take evasive action that causes a crash.
If you caused the crash because of your negligence and knew that the crash occurred, then you must stop your vehicle.
As a practical matter, charging someone with “hit and run” when there was no contact is difficult. The damage to the vehicle is the main evidence that the vehicle caused or contributed to the crash.
The damage also shows why the driver knew or should have known that the crash occurred. Without that proof, it is difficult to prosecute the “non-contact” hit-and-run.
Nevertheless, the non-contact hit-and-run is common enough for local law enforcement agencies in Pasco County, FL, to create standard operating procedures (SOPs) that address these investigations.
Before a phantom/non-contact vehicle can be considered a hit-and-run vehicle, the vehicle must have been a direct cause of the crash, there was some reasonable knowledge of its involvement, and the vehicle did leave the scene to avoid its responsibility under Florida law.
For law enforcement officers investigating these types of cases, the officer often needs a statement from an independent witness, surveillance video showing how the crash occurred, or confession from the at-fault driver before these charges can be brought.
Finding a Lawyer for a Leaving the Scene in West Pasco, FL
If you were involved in a hit-and-run crash and left the accident scene, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in New Port Richey in Pasco County, FL, at Sammis Law Firm.
Any hit-and-run charge is serious because it is a criminal offense with criminal penalties.
For minor accidents, the crime is sometimes called a “dent and run” or “hit and skip,” but even minor property damage can still be charged as a second-degree misdemeanor which is a crime that comes with up to 60 days in jail.
Although the police can issue a warrant for your arrest for misdemeanor offenses, the officer might just issue you a “notice to appear” in court and release you at the scene.
We represent clients charged with various charges for leaving the scene of an accident in a hit-and-run case, including a misdemeanor for hitting attended or unattended property or a felony involving personal injury or death.
Our attorneys are familiar with the policies and procedures used in Pasco County, FL, for both felony hit and run cases charged under F.S. §316.027 and misdemeanor hit and run cases charged under F.S. §316.061 or F.S.§316.063).
If you leave the scene, a criminal investigation has already begun. We can help you decide what to do next so that the investigating officer doesn’t just knock on your door at home or work.
The law is unforgiving when it comes to leaving the scene of a serious crash involving injury. An attorney can help you at every stage of the case.
We can begin your defense today.
This article was last updated on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.