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"Hit-and-Run" Accidents

If the police are looking for you after a "hit and run" accident, then contact a criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm for a free consultation. Call 813-250-0500.

You should NEVER leave the scene of a crash because doing so is a crime that comes with serious criminal penalties. The penalties depend on the damage caused by the crash and whether anyone was injured. After the criminal investigation begins, don't compound your first mistake by trying to represent yourself during the ongoing criminal investigation.

After the criminal investigation for "hit and run" begins, an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm can help you in four ways: 

  1. we can help you invoke your right to remain silent and to have an attorney represent you so that the police do not come to your home or work to interrogate you about the crash;
  2. we can track down information about how the crash occurred and present any favorable information to the police to show them why criminal charges should be brought against you;
  3. we can provide information to the investigating officer on your behalf so that the officer can complete their crash report and close the criminal part of the investigation; and
  4. we can work with your insurance company to make sure any claims for damages are resolved.

If you look at the list of TPD dispatched traffic calls for service, you might be surprised to see so many “hit and run” accidents listed. Recent statistics show that one in four crashes involve a driver leaving the scene of the crash. In 2014, Florida had more than 84,000 hit-and-run accidents. That same year, Hillsborough County had more than 4,300 hit-and-run accidents.

Because hit and run cases are so common, many local law enforcement agencies have an entire division devoted to these kind of traffic investigations. Both the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and the Tampa Police Department have a hit and run unit with specially trained officers that focus on these types of investigations.

Many of these accidents are relatively minor involving only unattended property (i.e., a parked car, fence, or mailbox). The more serious hit and run crashes involve a crash between two moving vehicles or a vehicle and a pedestrian.

Our attorneys are familiar with the procedures used by each of the different law enforcement agencies. During the investigation, if the officer uncovers information about the suspect who was driving the vehicle that fled, then the search for that driver begins. Using that information, the investigator will track down the registered owner of the vehicle, even when no one was injured in the crash.

As part of that investigation, the officer might show up at the suspect's home, work or school. After the surprise visit, the investigator will detain and interrogate the suspect with the goal of getting a confession. The best way to avoid that type of investigation is to retain an attorney quickly who can represent you at every stage of the case.

Attorneys for Hit and Run Cases in Tampa, FL

When it comes to allegations of leaving the scene of a crash, the law is not forgiving. Officers are aggressive in these investigations, even if you only hit unattended property or a parked car. Officers go to even greater lenghts to find hit and run drivers involved in a multi-vehicle crash, especially when anyone was injured.

If you made a mistake by leaving the scene of the crash, don't make another mistake by trying to represent yourself during the criminal investigation. 

Instead, retain an experienced criminal defense attorney in Tampa, FL, who can represent you at each stage of the case. Our attorneys can contact the investigating officer on your behalf so that the police do not come to your home or work to interrogate you about the crash. We can also help you deal with the insurance company so that any claims can be resolved properly.

We understand the policy and procedures used by hit and run investigators at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Tampa Police Department, the Plant City Police Department, the Temple Terrace Police Department, and the Florida HIghway Patrol.

The goal in these cases is avoiding any criminal accusation or an arrest. An experienced criminal justice lawyer in Tampa, FL, at the Sammis Law Firm can help you fight for the best result at every stage of the case in Hillsborough County, FL. Our offices are conveniently located downtown, just a few blocks from the courthouse.

Call 813-250-0500.


When the Hit and Run Investigator Knocks on Your Door

The officer is permitted to come to your home or business to interrogate you, unless you have an attorney. Once the officer knows that you have an attorney, they are not allowed to talk to you. During the interrogation, the officer wants an admission about one or more of the following elements of the crime:

  1. Your vehicle was involved in a crash;
  2. You were driving the vehicle at the time of the crash;
  3. You knew (or should have known) that you were involved in an accident causing property damage or injury; or
  4. You left the scene before providing all of the required information including the suspect's name, address, and insurance information.

If you are suspected of hit-and-run for leaving the scene, don't make any statement until after you have retained a lawyer. Instead, tell the investigating officer: "I am invoking my right to remain silent until after I have spoken to my attorney." The moment you invoke your right to an attorney, all interrogation must stop. Most importantly, the fact that you didn't make a statement can't be used against you at trial.

Better yet, if you retain the attorney, the attorney can contact the investigating officer with the goal of PREVENTING the officer from coming to your home or business in the first place.

Another tactic used by the "hit and run" investigators with the Tampa Police Department and other local agencies is to but out a B.O.L.O. on the vehicle involved in the crash. B.O.L.O. means "Be On the Look Out." Anyone driving that vehicle might get pulled over.

When the officers find the vehicle, they can tow it to the impound lot or hold it for "evidence" In many of these "hit and run" case, the investigator makes no effort to get a search warrant before seizing the vehicle. An attorney can help you get the vehicle returned immediately while still protecting your rights to remain silent.


The Importance of Remaining Silent After Leaving the Scene

After a "hit and run" accident, you should consider hiring an attorney to represent you during the criminal investigation. The criminal penalties for hit and run in Florida are serious and often unforgiving.

Under the Constitution of the United States, you have the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney represent you. Although anything you say can be used against you, your attorney is often in the best position to explain your side of the story.

An attorney can help you decide the best thing to do based on the particular facts of your case.


What are the best defenses for hit and run crimes?

The most important defenses in "hit and run" accident cases include:

  1. the defendant's vehicle was not involved in the crash (especially when no physical contact was made between the suspect's vehicle and another vehicle or when there is no visible damage);
  2. the defendant was not driving the vehicle at the time of the alleged crash (when no witnesses saw the suspect behind the wheel);
  3. the defendant did stay near the scene and provided all information required by statute; or
  4. the defendant had no intention of leaving the scene to avoid providing information and only moved the vehicle to find a safer location to stop.

The cost and fees for a hit and run charge depend on how the offense is charged. Felony charges occur if a person is injured in the crash. Misdemeanor charges occur if the crash involves only damage to attended or unattended property.


Changes to Florida's Hit-and-Run Statute in 2014

Florida's laws on hit and run changed dramatically on July 1, 2014. Florida Statute Section 316.027 applies to drivers leaving the scene of a crash. The statute creates the "Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act."

The statute requires the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash that results in serious bodily injury to a person to immediately stop the vehicle and remain at the scene of the crash. The new legislation required a mandatory minimum sentence for cases involving death and DUI.

  • The statute imposes a minimum driver license revocation period of at least three (3) years and driver education requirements for leaving the scene of a crash;
  • No motion to depart from the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for leaving the scene of a crash resulting in death is allowed if the defendant was DUI at the time of the offense;
  • The court is authorized to grant a motion to depart from the mandatory minimum only upon a finding that the imposition of the mandatory minimum term would result in an injustice;
  • Leaving the scene of a crash resulting in serious bodily injury to a person is now a second-degree felony (punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison) instead of a third-degree felony (punishable by five (5) years in Florida State Prison);
  • A conviction for the charge of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in the death of a person now requires that the court impose a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of four (4) years;
  • The statute increases the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment from two (2) to four (4) years for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in the death of a person while driving under the influence (DUI); or
  • If the victim qualifies as a "vulnerable road user" then a conviction for leaving the scene of a crash is ranked one level higher than specified in the Criminal Punishment Code.

Types of Hit and Run Cases in Florida

The most common types of crimes for leaving the scene of a crash include:

  • damage to unattended property only (including an unoccupied parked vehicle, a fence or a mailbox)
  • damage to attended property (including an occupied vehicle);
  • non-serious injury;
  • serious bodily injury;
  • death.

The vast majority of charges for leaving the scene of a crash involve property damage to unattended property (a parked vehicle) or attended property (another occupied vehicle). The most serious hit and run cases involve personal injury, serious bodily injury or even death. In some cases, the driver will just abandon the vehicle after the crash and run away on foot leaving the inoperable vehicle behind.

No matter the circumstances, law enforcement officers take these cases very seriously. Don't represent yourself. Seek out the services of a qualified criminal justice attorney in Tampa, FL, to help you at every stage of the case.


Additional Resources

Florida Statute 316.061 - Leaving the Scene of a Crash - Visit the website of the Florida State Legislature to find more information on Florida Statute 316.061 including within Title XXII of Chapter 316. The statute sets out the legal obligations of a driver involved in a crash resulting only in damage to a vehicle being driven by another or other attended property. The statute also includes the penalties for a violation. The statute for leaving the scene after crashing into an unattended property is found at 316.063. The duty to give information and render aid is found at 316.062. For crashes involving death or personal injuries, read more about Florida Statute 316.027.

Hit and Run Crashes in Florida - Visit the website of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FDHSMV) to learn more about recent increases in fatal hit and run crashes in Florida since 2014. The Florida Department of Transportation (DOT), Florida Sheriffs Association, the Florida Police Chiefs Association and the Florida Highway Patrol have partnered to bring down the number of fatal hit-and-run crashes by educating drivers on the penalties faced if they leave the scene of the crash. Find information on active hit and run investigations in FHP Troop C in Hillsborough County.

Hit and Run Traffic Crashes in Hillsborough County, FL - Visit the website of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office to find information on current traffic accidents involving injury or fatality, or no injury. The website also shows road congestion and street flooding problems or road closures. Find a list of local traffic crashes in Hillsborough County, FL, by type, location, cross street, status and status time.

Application for Traffic Calls for Service for Tampa Police Department - Visit the website of the City of Tampa to find an application for TPD Traffic Calls for service which is updated every 30 minutes. Find calls for service from today, yesterday and during the last week. The information listed includes the occurrence date, time of dispatch, clear time, address, description and report number. Many of the descriptions are coded as "hit and run." Other descriptions of the calls for service include “street obstruction” or “traffic crash.” The City of Tampa website publishes an application that provides access to Tampa Police Current Traffic Calls for Service. From this list, you can also find links to the Tampa Police Traffic Advisories Map.


Finding a "Hit and Run" Lawyer in Hillsborough County

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm represent clients throughout Tampa and Hillsborough County, FL, on charges of hit and run (often called "leaving the scene of a crash") involving unattended property, another occupied vehicle, or personal injury. We represent clients in both felony and misdemeanor cases.

Our attorneys are familiar with the tactics used by local law enforcement agencies including the hit and run unit of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), the Tampa Police Department (TPD), the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (HCSO), the Plant City Police Department (PCPD), and the Temple Terrace Police Department (TTPD).

We focus on crimes that occur in a vehicle such as DUI, reckless driving, fleeing to elude, hit and run, and leaving the scene of a crash. That focus allows us to stay current on the most recent changes in the law that impact these types of cases.

If you under investigation for leaving the scene of a crash (often called "hit and run") in Tampa or Plant City in Hillsborough County, FL, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case.

During the initial consultation, we can help you decide what you might need to do immediately to protect yourself against a criminal charge. We also help you provide information to your insurance company so that they can settle any civil lawsuits that might arise after the case for personal injury or property damage. 

Find out how we can help you invoke your right to remain silent so that law enforcement officers do not travel to your work, home or school to interrogate you. We work hard to protect our clients after an accident.

Let us put our experience to work for you. Call 813-250-0500.


HIT AND RUN PENALTIES IN FLORIDA

 
Leaving the scene of the crash with:
PROPERTY DAMAGE

Second Degree Misdemeanor - One Year Statute of Limitations

Up to 60 days in prison and $500 fine

INJURIES

Second felony or third-degree felony - Three Year Statute of Limitations

Revoked license for at least three (3) years

Up to five years in prison and $5,000 fine

FATALITIES

First degree felony - No Timelimit

Revoked license for at least three (3) years

Mandatory minimum of 4 years in prison, up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine


This article was last updated on Friday, November 30, 2018.