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For a Leaving the Scene of a Crash Charge in Florida, Does There Need to be an Actual Crash?

In Florida, it is illegal to get into a traffic crash and then leave the scene without waiting for the police and providing identification and insurance information. For crashes that involve minor impacts, there must be some property damage or injury to trigger the requirement to remain at the scene. Therefore, if you slightly hit another vehicle and verify there was no damage or injuries, you are free to leave. However, if there is any property damage, or any injury, you are not free to leave.

If a person is in a crash that involves serious injury or death and leaves the scene, it is a serious felony crime in Florida. The main idea is that if a person causes a serious injury or death, the police want to be able to investigate that person to see if he/she is following the law. If a person leaves the scene without waiting for police, the state assumes the person is involved in criminal activity such as driving while intoxicated, driving with a suspended license or recklessly caused the crash.

However, there have been “accidents” with serious injuries or death that do not involve actual crashes. In a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, the passenger somehow exited the moving vehicle, hit the pavement and died. The driver, however, just kept driving. After the driver was found and charged with leaving the scene of a crash involving death, the criminal defense lawyer argued the case should be dismissed because there was actually no “crash”. The evidence showed that the vehicle never hit the passenger or anything else to cause the passenger to exit the vehicle. While this is a good argument, the court rejected it.

The purpose of the law is to protect people who are victims in traffic accidents. If an accident occurs and property is damaged or a person is injured or killed, the law is there to make sure the police can properly investigate it. If the driver leaves the scene, that may not be possible. In this case, to get around the language of the statute which includes the word “crash”, the court found that the passenger hitting the pavement was the crash that is necessary under the Florida law. Under that interpretation, any time an occupant of a moving vehicle exits the vehicle, it will be a crash, and the driver will be required to stop and remain at the scene.