Leaving the Scene of an Accident

Hit & Run Defense Lawyer in St. Petersburg

  • Generally

A person who is involved in a motor vehicle accident is required to provide certain identifying information to the driver or occupant of the other vehicle(s) or owner or attendant of any other damaged property. This information includes the driver's name, address, and vehicle identification number. When requested, the driver must display his or her driver's license or permit. The driver also has a duty to provide reasonable assistance to any person injured in the crash. This includes transporting the injured person to a hospital, or making arrangements for such transportation, upon request. A violation of the duty to provide information or render aid constitutes a non-criminal traffic infraction. Where property damage results, a violation of these duties constitutes a second degree misdemeanor. In cases involving bodily injury, the violation is a third degree felony and, where death results, the violation is a first degree felony.

The laws applicable to these offenses are somewhat unique. As a general principle, a person cannot be convicted of a crime based on a confession alone. There must be evidence of the crime, that is independent of the confession, offered at trial before the confession is admissible and before the accused can be convicted. This usually comes in the form of eyewitness testimony. In a DUI case, for example, there must be someone who observed the defendant behind the wheel of the car before the defendant's admission to driving (assuming one was made) can be presented to the jury. Without independent proof that the defendant was driving (or in actual physical control of the vehicle), the inculpatory statement is excluded and a conviction is improper. In cases involving leaving the scene of an accident, all that is required is proof that there was an accident and that the involved vehicle left the scene. Once this is established, any statements by the accused that he or she was driving the vehicle are admissible. In other words, there is no requirement that another person identify the defendant as the driver before a confession by the defendant is admissible. The corpus delicti rules for leaving the scene of an accident are, therefore, less stringent than those applicable to DUI and other types of criminal cases. To give you a better sense of this, I included a case below that really highlights the distinction. The concept of corpus delicti is not an easy one to grasp at first blush. An experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer can provide a more in depth explanation of this often misunderstood legal concept.

Also, Florida law creates a privilege for those who are involved in an accident and are relating what occurred to law enforcement. This is known as the accident report privilege and is it codified in Florida statute § 316.066(4). In cases involving a DUI with property damage or injury, for example, the responding officer will first conduct a civil crash investigation. Statements made by the accused person during that part of the investigation are not admissible in a subsequent criminal prosecution. The investigating officer must "switch hats" following the conclusion of the civil investigation and read the accused person his or her Miranda warnings prior to commencing the criminal investigation. If there is no "switching of hats" and Miranda is not read (assuming the person is in custody) any inculpatory statements are suppressible. With regard to leaving the scene of an accident, the rules are somewhat different. Under Florida law, where the accused person leaves the scene of an accident, and is later located and questioned by law enforcement about the circumstances of the crash, the accused person is not entitled to the protections of 316.066. There appears, however, to be an important factual distinction in the various cases that address this issue: where the accused voluntarily reports the accident to law enforcement after having left the scene, the privilege is applicable. I have provided a case on this issue as well (see below). In any event, if you have left the scene of an accident, any statements made to anyone should be through your attorney.

Finally, our Supreme Court has held that imposing restitution as a condition of probation for leaving the scene of an accident is not proper. Restitution is essentially court ordered payments for damage to property or injuries sustained by another that are directly or indirectly related to the criminal offense. Because the crime of leaving the scene of an accident is not committed until after the damages are caused, the crime does not bear a sufficient connection or nexus to the damages to order restitution. Despite this reasoning, the applicable statutes (as set forth below) now authorize an order of restitution in cases of leaving the scene of an accident with either death or injury. Cases involving property damage still preclude an order of restitution as part of any sentence that is imposed.

This section includes an overview of the applicable statutes, the standard jury instruction (which includes the elements of the charge), authoritative cases that highlight the legal nuances of these types of offenses, and a list of resources to help provide additional information.

  • Applicable Florida Statutes

The following is a list of statutes, related to leaving the scene of an accident offenses, as set forth in chapter 316.

  • Florida statute section 316.062 (Duty to Give Information and Render Aid) provides as follows:

(1) The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash resulting in injury to or death of any person or damage to any vehicle or other property which is driven or attended by any person shall give his or her name, address, and registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving, and shall upon request and if available exhibit his or her license or permit to drive, to any person injured in such crash or to the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle or other property damaged in the crash and shall give such information and, upon request, exhibit such license or permit to any police officer at the scene of the crash or who is investigating the crash and shall render to any person injured in the crash reasonable assistance, including the carrying, or the making of arrangements for the carrying of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary, or if such carrying is requested by the injured person.

(2) In the event none of the persons specified are in condition to receive the information to which they would otherwise be entitled under subsection (1), and no police officer is present, the driver of any vehicle involved in such crash, after fulfilling all other requirements of s. 316.027 and subsection (1), insofar as possible on his or her part to be performed, shall forthwith report the crash to the nearest office of a duly authorized police authority and shall submit thereto the information specified in subsection (1).

(3) The statutory duty of a person to make a report or give information to a law enforcement officer making a written report relating to a crash shall not be construed as extending to information which would violate the privilege of such person against self-incrimination.

(4) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a non moving violation as provided in chapter 318.

  • Florida statute section 316.061 (Crashes Involving Damage to Vehicle or Property) provides as follows:

(1) 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. Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, $5 shall be added to a fine imposed pursuant to this section, which $5 shall be deposited into the Emergency Medical Services Trust Fund.

(2) Every stop must be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary, and, if a damaged vehicle is obstructing traffic, the driver of such vehicle must make every reasonable effort to move the vehicle or have it moved so as not to block the regular flow of traffic. Any person failing to comply with this subsection shall be cited for a non moving violation, punishable as provided in Chapter 318.

(3) Employees or authorized agents of the Department of Transportation, law enforcement with proper jurisdiction, or an expressway authority created pursuant to Chapter 348, in the exercise, management, control, and maintenance of its highway system, may undertake the removal from the main traveled way of roads in its highway system of all vehicles incapacitated as a result of a motor vehicle crash and of debris caused thereby. Such removal is applicable when such a motor vehicle crash results only in damage to a vehicle or other property, and when such removal can be accomplished safely and will result in the improved safety or convenience of travel upon the road. The driver or any other person who has removed a motor vehicle from the main traveled way of the road as provided in this section shall not be considered liable or at fault regarding the cause of the accident solely by reason of moving the vehicle.

  • Florida statutes section 316.027 (Crash Involving Death or Personal Injuries) provides as follows:

(1)(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property that results in injury of any person must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash or as close thereto as possible, and must remain at the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of 316.062. Any person who willfully violates this paragraph commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. (b) The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property that results in the death of any person must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and must remain at the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of s. 316.062. A person who is arrested for a violation of this paragraph and who has previously been convicted of a violation of this section, s. 316.061, s. 316.191, s. 316.193, or a felony violation of s. 322.34, shall be held in custody until brought before the court for admittance to bail in accordance with chapter 903. Any person who willfully violates this paragraph commits a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. Any person who willfully commits such a violation while driving under the influence, as set forth in s. 316.193(1) shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 2 years. (c) Notwithstanding s. 775.089(1)(a), if the driver of a vehicle violates paragraph (a) or paragraph (b), the court shall order the driver to make restitution to the victim for any damage or loss unless the court finds clear and compelling reasons not to order the restitution. Restitution may be monetary on non monetary restitution. The court shall make the payment of restitution a condition of probation in accordance with s. 948.03. An order requiring a defendant to make restitution to a victim does not remove or diminish the requirement that the court order payment to the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund under chapter 960. Payment of an award by the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund creates an order of restitution to the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund unless specifically waived in accordance with s. 775.089(1)(b).

(2) The department shall revoke the driver's license of the person so convicted.

(3) Every stop must be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary, and, if a damaged vehicle is obstructing traffic, the driver of the vehicle must make every reasonable effort to move the vehicle or have it moved so as not to obstruct the regular flow of traffic. Any person who fails to comply with this subsection shall be cited for a non moving violation, punishable as provided in chapter 318.

(4) A person whose commission of a noncriminal traffic infraction or any violation of this chapter or s. 1006.66 causes or results in the death of another person may, in addition to any other civil, criminal, or administrative penalty imposed, be required by the court to serve 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital that regularly receives victims of vehicle accidents, under the supervision of a registered nurse, an emergency room physician, or an emergency medical technician pursuant to a voluntary community service program operated by the trauma center or hospital.

(5) This section does not apply to crashes occurring during a motor sports event, as defined in s. 549.10(1), or at a closed course motor sport facility, as defined in s. 549.09(1).

  • Applicable Jury Instruction

The following is the standard jury instruction on leaving the scene of an accident, each element of which the state must prove as a condition precedent to a finding of guilt.

  • Florida standard jury instruction 28.4 (Leaving the scene of a crash involving death or injury) provides as follows:

To prove the crime of leaving the scene of a crash, the state must prove the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) The defendant was the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash resulting in [injury to][death of]any person.

(2) The defendant knew or should have known that he or she was involved in a crash.

Give 3a if death is charged or 3b if injury is charged.

(3) a. The defendant knew or should have known of the injury to or death of the person.

b. The defendant knew or should have known of the injury to the person.

(4) a. The defendant willfully failed to stop at the scene of the crash or as close to the crash as possible and remain there until he or she had given "identifying information" to the [injured person][driver][occupant][person attending the vehicle] and to any police officer investigating the crash.

b. The defendant willfully failed to render "reasonable assistance" to the injured person if such treatment appeared to be necessary or was requested by the injured person.

If the state proves the defendant willfully failed to give any part of the "identifying information" or willfully failed to give reasonable assistance, the state satisfies this element of the offense.

  • Definitions.

"Identifying information" means the name, address, vehicle registration number, and, if available and requested, the exhibition of the defendant's license or permit to drive.

"Reasonable assistance" includes carrying or making arrangements to carry the injured person to a physician or hospital for medical treatment.

"Willfully" means intentionally and purposely.


The laws pertaining to Leaving the Scene of an Accident offenses are somewhat unique, particularly those related to corpus delicti, the accident report privilege, and the imposition of a restitution order as part of the sentence. A qualified St. Petersburg area criminal defense attorney can explain these nuances in detail and evaluate the merits of the State's case against you.


  • Relevant Case Law

  1. Tina Esler v. State of Florida, 915 So.2d 637 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2005). In Esler, the appellant was charged with DUI with serious bodily injury and leaving the scene of a crash with injuries. The victim, who was in a wheel chair, was struck by a white car that fled the scene. The incident occurred in the parking lot of a Hillsborough county business establishment. The victim could not identify the driver. Later that same day, an FHP Trooper responded to a crash in Polk county wherein a white Buick drove through a fence and hit a tree. The Trooper approached a woman who was standing beside an ambulance. The woman identified herself as Esler (appellant). The appellant admitted she had been driving the Buick and was thereafter transported back to the scene of the earlier Hillsborough incident as she was now a possible suspect. The appellant, who was visibly intoxicated, admitted to being involved in the Hillsborough county hit and run. Other than her confession, there was no evidence placing her behind the wheel. At trial, she was convicted on both counts. On appeal, she argued that the trial court erred in admitting her confession into evidence before the state had proved the corpus delicti of the offenses of DUI with serious bodily injury and leaving the scene of an accident with injury. The second district court of appeal reversed the conviction for DUI with serious bodily injury, holding that (1) there can be no conviction for DUI with serious bodily injury without proof that the defendant was driving the vehicle and was impaired at the time of the crash; and (2) there must be proof independent of a confession that the defendant was driving the vehicle involved in the crash in order to make that determination. However, the appellate court affirmed the conviction for leaving the scene of an accident with injury. In so doing, it reasoned that the corpus delicti for leaving the scene of a crash with injury requires proof, independent of the defendant's statements, that the victim was struck by an automobile which fled the scene. Here, the state met its burden because the victim testified he was hit by a car which fled the scene. Therefore, the appellant's confession was properly admitted into evidence as to the leaving the scene offense.
  2. Octavious Cummings v. State of Florida, 780 So.2d 149 (Fla. 2nd DCA 149). In Cummings, the appellant was involved in an accident where the two occupants of the other vehicle were killed. A third motorist, after hearing a "thump", saw a green car beside a pole with the doors open and the radio playing. He then observed a male running across a nearby grocery store parking lot. Lt. Hill of the Bradenton Police Department ran the tag on the green car, which led him to appellant's house. After being let in by the appellant's stepfather, Lt. Hill asked the appellant if he was the driver of the green vehicle that had been involved in the crash, to which appellant responded "yes". Following his conviction at trial, the appellant argued on appeal that the trial court erred in allowing his statements into evidence as they were covered by the accident report privilege as set forth in s. 316.066(4). In affirming the conviction, the second district court of appeal held that because the appellant was a suspected hit and run driver, he was not entitled to the confidentiality privilege of section 316.066(4). Also, since the appellant was not in custody during the interrogation, Lt. Hill was not required to read appellant his Miranda rights.
  3. State of Florida v. Roxanne Williams, 520 So.2d 276 (Fla. 1988). In Williams, the appellant was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in personal injury. As a condition of probation, the trial court required appellant to pay restitution to her employer, or to her insurance company, if the claims made by the victim were reduced to judgment. On appeal, the second district reversed the probation condition, holding that the damages from the accident bore no relationship to the crime for which appellant was convicted. The state petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to review that decision. The issue before the Florida Supreme Court was whether the offense of leaving the scene of an accident bears a significant relationship to damages arising out of the accident. In affirming the decision of the second district court of appeal, the Supreme Court held that the damages arising out of the accident would have occurred with or without the appellant committing the offense of leaving the scene of an accident; the damages transpired independent of the crime. Therefore, the order of restitution was improper.
  • Resources

The following is a list of links to outside sources, prior blog posts, and other website sections on topics related to Leaving the Scene of an Accident offenses.

  • Links
  1. HG. Org: St. Petersburg Leaving the Scene of an Accident Defense Attorney
  2. HG.Org: St. Petersburg DUI Lawyer
  3. HG.Org: St. Petersburg Suspeded License Defense Attorney
  • Blog Posts
  1. Do I Need a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney?
  2. They Never Read Me My Rights - Can My Charge Be Dismissed?
  3. Speedy Trial in Florida: An Overview
  • Related Sections
  1. Alibi as a Defense to Your St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa Area Criminal Charge
  • The Bottom Line

Attorney Donald J. Kilfin has prosecuted numerous leaving the scene of an accident charges as a Pinellas county assistant state attorney. He has represented a number of clients throughout the Tampa Bay and Atlanta areas on these types of charges as well. If you have been arrested for leaving the scene of an accident, or hit and run, contact our offices for an immediate consultation.