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Florida Law Takes Tougher Stance on Hit-and-Run Accidents

This summer, Florida lawmakers have taken a tougher stand on hit-and-run drivers with new legislation. The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act was signed into law by Governor Rick Scott in June 2014, which increases the penalties against drivers who flee the scene of an accident. The bill, which was proposed by state Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, was written in honor of Aaron Cohen, a bicyclist who was killed in a hit-and-run accident in November 2012.

Florida Hit-and-Run Statistics

Florida has been in dire need of the most recent amendments to their hit-and-run laws. In 2012, there were approximately 70,000 hit-and-run accidents in Florida; in 2011, there were 69,500. Of those 70,000, 168 people were killed as a result, and in 92 of the fatal accidents, the motorists fled without stopping to help the victim.

Changes to Hit-and-Run Mandatory Minimum Jail Sentences

The amendments to the previous hit-and-run legislation in Florida help to fill the glaring gaps that provide loopholes and less stringent sentences for those who have been involved in a hit-and-run and have not stayed around to help the victim. The most important gap to fill is known as the “punishment gap” where previous state statutes provided that drivers who were under the influence and killed someone but who stayed at the scene of the crime received harsher punishments than drivers who fled after the deadly accident. The “punishment gap” between the two statutes gave an incentive to those involved in a deadly collision to run from the scene of the crime and return later sober to decrease their sentence.

The new amendments signed into law sentence hit-and-run drivers involved in a deadly crash to a mandatory minimum jail sentence and other penalties. The lightest sentence is the revocation of the driver’s license for a period of three years where he or she has to attend programs and courses on driving. The amendments increase the mandatory minimum jail sentence for a driver who has left the scene of a fatal hit-and-run from two years to four years. Finally, drivers who are involved in a fatal hit-and-run and were under the influence at the time of the accident will receive a mandatory minimum jail sentence of four years.

 What to Do if You Have Been Involved in an Accident

If you have been involved in a crash, it is important to remain calm and stay at the scene of the accident. In Florida, drivers involved in a collision should do the following:

  • If possible and if injury or damage is minimal, move the cars involved in the accident to the side of the road to limit further injury or damage.
  • Call law enforcement to the scene of the crime, and wait for their instructions.
  • Exchange relevant information with the other participants in the accident, including, but not limited to, license, registration, car insurance information, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.
  • Try to retain the details of the crash in your mind and, if possible, write them down so that you do not forget. It is important to remember the location of the cars when the crash happened, who was where, what were the external and internal factors that were present before, during and after the crash, etc.
  • If someone is injured, help him or her at the least to get off the road, which is an extremely dangerous place right after an accident.

Criminal Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

 If you have been arrested on charges of hit-and-run in the Fort Lauderdale area, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can provide guidance and legal counsel in your defense. Kevin J. Kulik can review the facts and circumstances surrounding the hit-and-run charges and help guide you through the next steps in your case.

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