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Leaving the Scene of an Accident - Did you know or should you know?

The law on Leaving the Scene of an Accident with injury or death had been interpreted to require that you knew or should have known that an injury occurred. There is a knowledge requirement to LSA with injury or death because they are a criminal traffic offenses that are both a felony.  LSA with property damage is also a crime. The requirement of knew or should have known has been applied to the injury element of the offense even if there is a death. However, the Florida Supreme Court had said in the opinion that led to the standard jury instructions that "knowledge of the accident is an essential element of the offense". State v. Mancuso, 652 So. 2d 370 (Fla. 1995).

Now the Fourth District in Dorsett v. State, has reversed a case in which the defendant was convicted but requested a special jury instruction requiring actual knowledge of an accident before he could be convicted of leaving the scene of an accident with injuries. The Fourth District did this because the Supreme Court stated that "one cannot 'willfully' leave an accident without awareness that an accident has occurred" Id.

The issue is one of splitting hairs, technicalities or as I like to put it constitutional protections. The law in Florida is that once a District Court rules, that is the law of the state until another district conflicts or the Supreme Court addresses the issue. The Fourth District requested that the Supreme Court specifically address the knowledge requirement of the crash itself as distinguished from knowledge or constructive knowledge of the injuries. In other words, the district court ruled actual knowledge of the crash is required but the knowledge requirement of the injuries is still whether a defendant knew or should have known.

If you are reading this and find it confusing, then you know why if you are facing criminal charges you should not go it alone. If you or a loved one has been accused of any criminal or traffic offense, and want to hire a criminal and traffic defense lawyer, then click or call today.

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