In Florida, Defendant Must Know An Accident Occurred to be Guilty of Leving the Scene of an Accident
In Florida, if a driver is involved in an auto accident that results in property damage, an injury or death, that driver is required to remain at the scene of the accident and provide certain information such as driver's license and insurance information. If the driver is involved in an auto accident and leaves the scene, that driver can be charged with a misdemeanor crime or felony crime depending on the severity of the crash. If the accident just resulted in property damage, it is a misdemeanor crime. If the crash resulted in a serious injury, it is a felony crime. If the crash resulted in a death, it is a first degree felony which is the most serious felony crime in Florida. The idea is that people who get into auto crashes need to be held accountable, whether they were impaired from drugs or alcohol or whether they or their insurance company need to pay for the damage caused by the crash. When a person leaves the scene of a crash, the crash cannot be properly investigated and that person cannot be held accountable. The state assumes the person fled the scene because he/she was doing something illegal at the time, usually driving while impaired from alcohol or drugs.
It seems obvious, but in order to prove a person is guilty of leaving the scene of an accident, the state must prove that the driver knew he/she was involved in a crash. In most cases, that is easy, but there are cases when it is not so clear. At night, on a dark street, a driver may hit a pedestrian who walks into the street and think it was an animal or a pothole or something else. If the radio is on or a driver does not hear well, it may not be obvious that a person hit someone or some thing in some cases. In a leaving the scene of a crash case, there may be a defense that the driver did not know of the crash. If the state can only prove the driver should have known about the crash, that is not sufficient for a conviction under Florida law.