Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Cars crash all the time, especially in South Florida. When they do, drivers must stop and share their name, address and registration info. Upon request, they must show their driver’s license too. If the crash injures someone, the driver must provide reasonable assistance if the injured person requests it or treatment is necessary.
Sometimes, people leave the scene of an accident without sharing their info and offering help. If so, they face arrest for Leaving the Scene of an Accident. But what happens if you crash into one car, two people get hurt and you leave? Do you face one count of Leaving the Scene of an Accident or two? The Florida Supreme Court answers this question in State v. Johnson.
The State of Florida charges Johnson with four counts of Leaving the Scene of an Accident after he flees from a three-car crash, which kills one person and injures three others. A jury finds him guilty of all four counts. After the trial, the judge dismisses one the counts because two victims were in one car.
On appeal, Johnson argues that Double Jeopardy prevents him from being convicted of multiple counts of Leaving the Scene of an Accident. The law says that the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and shall remain at the scene of the crash until the driver shares information and helps the driver. Here, only one crash happened. So Double Jeopardy prevents the State from convicting Johnson three times for the same crime.
The State argues for a per victim basis, not per crash basis. That means that they can convict Johnson for four counts because four people got hurt. It doesn’t matter that he left one crash.
The Florida Supreme Court claims this an issue of statutory interpretation. Then it finds the Leaving the Scene of an Accident statute a victim-centric statute. Further, the duty to render aid statute creates a duty to each victim. It doesn’t matter that the statute punishes the leaving and that a person only leaves once. It also requires the driver to help each victim. Therefore, the jury justly convicted Johnson of the four counts. This per victim approach is the right method and does not violate Double Jeopardy.
Read the Johnson opinion here!
Talk to an Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney!
These aren’t the type of cases that every lawyer can properly defend. They’re very nuanced and require someone with an expertise in this field. Fortunately, Mr. Brown worked in a special unit as an Assistant State Attorney where he only investigated and prosecuted people for driving deaths and Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Death.
The criminal defense firm Brown Legal PLLC operates from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but regularly handles cases throughout South Florida and the rest of the state. Before it’s too late, talk to Mr. Brown and see if he can help you best defend yourself! Reach out over the phone at (954) 524-6700 or through the Contact Page if you have any questions.