Knowledge Required for Jacksonville Hit and Run Charges

Duval County Criminal Defense

Two people hospitalized after car accidents. One was a hit and run crash.

In less than 48 hours, two accidents causing serious injury occurred in Jacksonville. Both accidents sent a child to the hospital, and one accident turned out to be fatal. A hit and run accident is known as leaving the scene of an accident in Jacksonville. Under Florida’s criminal laws, leaving the scene of an accident is a misdemeanor or felony crime depending on the damage or injury involved. For example, if you leave the scene or an accident causing property damage, this is a misdemeanor.  If you flee the scene of the accident after causing serious bodily injury or death, this is a felony. It could also result in a minimum mandatory prison sentence. If you are arrested or given a Jacksonville ticket for leaving the scene of an accident, it is important to discuss your case with a Jacksonville criminal attorney. Even if a person was not physically injured, a hit and run charge could have serious ramifications on your Florida criminal record and driving record. It may also affect the status of your Florida drivers license.

It is not unusual to hear that someone has fled the scene of an accident.  Some hit and run crashes are more serious than others, but they are all criminal cases.  The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department is looking for a driver that was involved in a hit and run crash causing death.  On Saturday, an unknown driver allegedly “ran a red light on Stockton at Irene streets just after 8 p.m.” The driver was turning left and struck the car with a baby inside. “Police said the boy was sitting on his mother’s lap in the front passenger seat. The child and several other occupants were taken to UF Health Jacksonville.  The other victims had minor injuries, according to police.” While police officers were able to find the vehicle that left the scene of the accident, we do not know if the driver has been found. The 4-month-old boy died early this morning due to injuries sustained in this car crash. (News4jax.com)

Early this morning, another accident occurred which caused serious injury in Jacksonville, but this case is different from the hit and run crash above. Channel 4 News Jax reported:

“A 16-year-old girl was hit by a car on the Northside Monday morning and was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. The crash occurred on Lem Turner Road near Leonid Road around 6:25 a.m. Police said a 75-year-old woman hit Kanisha Muniz with her car and didn’t realize it at first. ‘When she heard a crash, she made a U-turn at the next opening in the roadway and found the child laying in the roadway,’ said Sgt. Washington, of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. The driver said she had a green light. Police are now trying to determine if the teen stepped out into traffic. ‘It appears she was in the crosswalk, it’s just a determination if she’s walking on a red light or green light,’ Washington said.”

Although the driver did not immediately stop in this case, this is not a hit and run crash. This driver was not aware of the accident. When she became aware, she immediately returned. This is easy to prove considering she did not go far from the scene. In order for someone to be guilty of leaving the scene of an accident, he or she must have knowledge that an accident occurred causing injury. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled:

“We noted that there are two primary rationales for interpreting the statute as requiring knowledge of injury: (1) the statute imposes a more severe criminal penalty for leaving the scene of an accident where personal injuries are involved than does a similar statute which imposes sanctions where only property damage is involved; and (2) a driver must be aware of the facts giving rise to the affirmative duties imposed by the statute in order to be held liable for not performing those duties. Mancuso, 652 So.2d at 372. These rationales are not undercut by a single knowledge standard. There is a vast gulf between the sanctions imposed for leaving the scene of an accident where only property damage is involved, and where knowledge need not be proven, and the criminal penalties for leaving the scene of an accident where injury or death is involved. Compare § 316.061(1), Fla. Stat. (1995) (sanction for leaving scene of accident involving property damage is fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than sixty days or both) with § 316.027(1)(a) (sanction for leaving scene of accident involving personal injury is fine not exceeding $5000 or term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or both) and § 316.027(1)(b) (sanction for leaving scene of accident involving death is fine not exceeding $10,000 or term of imprisonment not exceeding fifteen years or both). Also, the State must still prove that the driver was aware of the facts giving rise to the affirmative duty: that personal injury has occurred.” State v. Dumas, 700 So. 2d 1223, 1226 (Fla. 1997)

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