New Florida Law Toughens Penalties for Hit-and-Run DriversJanuary 28, 2015 | Category: Automobile Accidents | Share
During the last two years, Florida has had an increase in the number of hit-and-run accidents. In late 2014 and early 2015, we have already heard about hit-and-run accidents in Southwest Florida.
- Fox 4 News reported in November 2014 that a Lee County school bus driver, with children on board, was arrested in Cape Coral after leaving the scene of an accident in Cape Coral where a 27 year-old bicyclist was injured.
- The News-Press reported that a motorcyclist was killed, and the driver left the scene on January 5, 2015.
Penalties for hit-and-run drivers changed July 1, 2014, after Governor Scott signed into law the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act (316.027) named after Aaron Cohen, a 31-year-old father of two and an avid cyclist who was struck, while cycling, by a car and suffered fatal injuries February 2012 in Central Florida. The driver, who was at fault, was believed to be under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident, although he fled the scene. He ultimately served less than two years in prison. This sentence was the lesser sentence than what the motorist would have served had he been sentenced as a DUI manslaughter charge.
According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSM) department, effective July 1, 2014, a driver involved in a crash that results in serious bodily injury to a person must immediately stop the vehicle and remain at the scene of the crash.
According to the FHSM, the Florida law says:
- Changes the charge for leaving the scene of a crash resulting in serious bodily injury to a person to a 2nd degree felony, rather than a 3rd degree felony.
- Imposes a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 4 years for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in the death of a person.
- Increases the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment from 2 to 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).
- Imposes a minimum driver license revocation period of at least 3 years and driver education requirements for leaving the scene of a crash.
- If the victim is a "vulnerable road user," offenses for leaving the scene of a crash are ranked one level higher than specified in the Criminal Punishment Code. (A "vulnerable road user" is anyone on or alongside a roadway without the protective hard covering of a metal automobile, such as bicycle riders, pedestrians, motorcyclists, people in wheelchairs, first responders, police, road workers and others would be especially at risk of serious bodily harm if hit by a car, SUV or truck.)
- Authorizes a defendant to make a motion in court to depart from the mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for leaving the scene of a crash resulting in death, unless the violation was committed while the defendant was DUI.
- Authorizes the state to object to the defendant's motion and authorizes a court to grant the motion upon a finding that imposition of the mandatory minimum term would constitute or result in an injustice.
Law enforcement and Florida congressmen felt that the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act was an important tool in curbing hit-and-run accidents as it increased the penalty to discourage hit-and-run drivers. Prior to July 2014 many drivers involved in accidents while driving under the influence, received lesser penalties by leaving the scene of the accident than being stopped as a drunk driver.
The Florida Highway Patrol said that in 2012 Florida witnessed nearly 70 thousand hit-and-run crashes, up by 500 from the previous year. An average of 3.2 people are killed statewide every week by a hit-and-run driver.
The American Automobile Association Foundation of Traffic Safety stated that many believe the high number of hit-and-runs corresponds with the high number of illegal immigrants who are unlicensed and fear the risk of deportation.
What does the FHSM say drivers should do after a crash?
CALL law enforcement.
ATTAIN vehicle, witness and driver information.
SKETCH the scene, showing vehicle crash locations.
HELP the injured.
"Keeping the acronym, CRASH, in mind when involved in vehicle accidents will help drivers make the correct decisions, and take appropriate actions should they be involved in vehicle crashes. If you have witnessed, or have any information, about a possible hit-and-run accident, please notify authorities. To learn more about active hit-and-run cases by county, click here to access the Florida Highway Patrol website - Hit-and-Run Open Cases," says Fort Myers Vehicle Accident Attorney, Randall Spivey of Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.
Fort Myers Vehicle Accident Attorney, Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys. He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida. For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839,or by email to Randall@SpiveyLaw.com. Visit SpiveyLaw.com for more information. You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.in Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.