If you’ve ever been in a crowded parking lot where space is limited, you know that you should be more careful than normal when maneuvering through the tight spaces that often accompany these situations. Misjudging the amount of space available to make a turn into a parking space, for instance, could easily result in a minor collision. So what are you required to do after you lightly swipe the car next to you? As a Jacksonville traffic attorney and criminal defense attorney, I’ve seen what can happen when people are unfamiliar with what they are required to do, or simply make the mistake of leaving the scene because they’re scared and nervous. Leaving the scene without doing certain things that Florida law requires of a driver involved in an accident, is a criminal traffic offense that could lead to you being arrested. So how do you avoid being charged with the crime of Leaving the Scene of an Accident?
Damage Caused to Attended Vehicle or Property
Florida statute 316.061 requires that the driver of a car that collides with another car or some other property, where damage occurs, to immediately stop and provide the driver’s information to driver of the other vehicle or property owner. Consider the crowded parking lot example above. If you are attempting to park in a crowded parking lot, and swipe a parked car next to you, if there is someone sitting in the car, you should (1) stop at the scene; (2) provide the other driver with your name, address, and registration number for your car; (3) if asked, allow the other driver of property owner to see your license; and (4) report the crash to police. Failing to do what you are required to do prior to leaving is a second degree misdemeanor.
Damage Caused to Unattended Vehicle or Property
Florida statute 316.063 mandates that when there is a crash that involves damage to an unattended car or other property, you must (1) stop at the scene; (2) locate the owner of the other car or property in order to provide the owner with your name, address, and registration number for your car [if the owner cannot be found, leave this information in writing in a place that the owner can easily find it]; and (3) report the crash to police without any unnecessary delay.
What if I didn’t know there was damage?
The State is not required to prove that you knew there was damage to the other car or property. Backing into someone’s fence, then leaving is a crime, even if you didn’t realize that a fence post was bent when you hit it. The only damage that requires your knowledge is if the damage is to a person. Leaving the scene of a crash involving injury or death is more serious and requires knowledge that someone was injured or died. Also, Florida statute 316.062 requires you to render aid to anyone that is injured in a crash.
In short, where there are minor (or major) crashes that involve only property damage, the best thing to do is immediately contact law enforcement. Even if you are nervous about getting a ticket, it’s far better to get a civil traffic citation for bad driving than it is to be charged with a criminal traffic offense for leaving the scene. Stick around, call police, and contact an experienced traffic attorney to assist with your traffic ticket if you get cited.
Click here for information on what to do if you a victim of a hit and run.