A man was arrested this morning by the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office for several crimes involving an automobile. As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I represent people facing similar charges. I will set forth the facts of the case as described by the news article and explain the applicable Florida criminal laws. The article is entitled Suspected driver arrested after JTB crash and states:
“Officers arrested a man they believe may have crashed into a wooded area on J. Turner Butler Boulevard and Interstate 95 after driving erratically….The officers attempted to stop the vehicle because they said the driver was driving recklessly and the car had an expired license plate, but the vehicle fled. The officers then began a high-speed chase…. About 15-20 minutes later, a call was made to 911 about the same car crashing in a wooded area along Butler Boulevard eastbound at I-95…. When officers arrived to the crash scene, they realized that the driver had fled on foot…. Before 6 a.m., [the driver] was seen running across the interstate and was taken into custody by officers…. [The driver] has had a suspended license since May 2013, and has unpaid traffic tickets. He is charged in the crash with violation of probation, DUI, causing damage to property, driving with a suspended license and fleeing from law enforcement.”
This man is now facing felony and misdemeanor charges in Duval County. The felony charge is fleeing and attempting to elude a police officer. The Florida law that governs this crime is Section 316.1935. Fleeing and attempting to elude in Jacksonville is usually a third-degree felony. In this case, the driver may be charged with a second-degree felony due to the driving pattern. Section 316.1935(3)(a) states:
“(3) Any person who willfully flees or attempts to elude a law enforcement officer in an authorized law enforcement patrol vehicle, with agency insignia and other jurisdictional markings prominently displayed on the vehicle, with siren and lights activated, and during the course of the fleeing or attempted eluding: (a) Drives at high speed, or in any manner which demonstrates a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.”
The driver is also facing Jacksonville DUI charges. There are not enough facts in the article to determine why police charged the driver with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Florida DUI charges are usually misdemeanors, but they can be felonies if there is serious bodily injury or death or if the accused has prior DUI convictions.
The article states that the driver had a suspended Florida drivers license and was charged with driving on a suspended license in Jacksonville FL. A driving on a suspended or revoked license charge may be a civil traffic ticket or a misdemeanor criminal charge, depending on whether it was done with knowledge. Driving on a suspended or revoked license may be a felony if the driver is a Florida habitual traffic offender.
While the article does not state that the defendant was charged with Jacksonville leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage, the facts illustrated in the article set forth grounds for this misdemeanor charge. The law that governs leaving the scene of an accident is Florida Statute Section 316.061, and it reads:
“The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash resulting only in damage to a vehicle or other property which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such crash or as close thereto as possible, and shall forthwith return to, and in every event shall remain at, the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of s. 316.062. A person who violates this subsection commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.”
The driver in this JTB car crash must also answer to the violation of probation in Jacksonville. The article does not state the crime for which he was placed on probation. If the crime was a misdemeanor, he is looking at a sentence possibly involving additional time in the Duval County Jail. If he is on probation for a felony, he could go to prison. A violation of probation case is handled separately from the new charges. The defendant is entitled to a jury trial on the new charges. As for the violation of probation, the defendant is only entitled to a hearing.