Hit and Run Investigations in Pasco County
After a traffic crash involving either 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 else involved in the crash or the investigating officer writing the crash report.
If you left the scene of the accident in Pasco County, FL, then you need to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you determine what you should do next. The officer might be looking for you right now and plan a surprise visit to your home or office for the purpose of interrogating you.
The investigator's goal is getting a full confession so that the crime can be prosecuted and you can be cited or arrested for the criminal offense. On the other hand, a criminal defense attorney can help you invoke your right to remain silent so that you are not charged with a crime.
If the police are looking for you now, then you can hire an attorney to send a letter to the investigating officer that explains that you are involving your right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment and your right to have an attorney under the Sixth Amendment. Then 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, or 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 including DUI, hit and run, leaving the scene of a crash, street racing, 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, the Florida Highway Patrol.
For 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 arrest of the suspect in the hit and run case, especially if anyone was injured in the crash. The penalties for the crime of leaving the scene 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 when no one was inside of the car, then you can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor for leaving the scene of the crash 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, then you can be charged with a felony in the second or third degree. Penalties include a revocation of your driver's license for at least three years, up to five years in prison and $5,000 fine. If anyone dies as a result of the crash and you left the scene, then 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 via photopak;
- 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 at the time of the crash, the officer will travel to that person’s home or business to interrogate them about what happened. How long does it take? Sometimes the investigator knocks on the suspect's door immediately after the crash. In other cases, it takes days or weeks for the investigator to come knocking.
When the officer finds the driver, the officer will interrogate the suspect to find out:
- 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 left the scene after initially stopping.
In many of these cases, the investigator will find a motive for leaving the scene which might include:
- 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 contact between the vehicles causes more than $50 in damage, is likely to trigger the statutory requirements that you stop at the scene and fulfill your reporting requirements by providing your name and insurance information.
If you left the scene, an attorney can help you decide the best way 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 pro-active approach and have an attorney represent you at all stages of the case.
In felony hit and run cases only, 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, the 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 scene of the crash and ran on foot, then the detective might put a police "hold" on the vehicle. Part of the reason for the hold is because the registered owner might contact the law enforcement agency in order 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, then that person can be charged with the hit and run. If the registered owner claims that they were not driving, then they will be asked 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 so that the hold can be released. 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 in such a careless or reckless manner that it causes another vehicle to crash. For example, what if you change lanes abruptly without using your turn signal or looking out for other traffic, then that action might cause another vehicle to take evasive action that causes a crash. If you caused the crash because of your negligence and you know that the crash occurred, then you are required to 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 that local law enforcement agencies in Pasco County, FL, have created standard operating procedures (SOPs) that address these types of 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, of 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 scene of the accident, then 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 a variety of 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 left 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. Call 727-802-6392.
This article was last updated on Friday, September 13, 2019.