I read an article on a local Jacksonville website about an accident that occurred on Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville, Florida where a driver ran into the back of a motorcycle and then left the scene only to return with her mother ten minutes later. Is this a crime in Florida?
Most people are aware that all drivers have an obligation to remain at the scene of an accident that results in property damage and/or injury to exchange insurance and identification information. If a person is involved in an accident and leaves the scene without providing the required insurance and identification information, he/she commits a crime in Florida. If a person is injured in the crash, the hit and run crime is a third degree felony. If someone dies in the crash, the hit and run crime is a first degree felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in Florida state prison. On the other end of the spectrum, if the accident results in property damage only, the hit and run crime is a misdemeanor.
What happens if a person keeps driving for some period of time but then decides to return to the scene of the accident? Technically, this is still a crime. The hit and run (aka leaving the scene of an accident) criminal statute says the person must stop at the scene of the crash immediately. Of course, police and prosecutors have discretion to forego an arrest or prosecution for a person who leaves but comes back on his/her own. However, as criminal defense lawyers who have handled many hit and run cases, we have seen cases where a person leaves the scene temporarily but returns and is still arrested and charged with a crime. In some cases, a person who temporarily leaves the scene may have an emergency which would provide a good defense to hit and run charges if the state decided to pursue them
But, since the statute requires a person to stop at the scene of the accident immediately, the best course of action is to remain at the scene without leaving and postpone any other business until released by the officer.