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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 (LSA),  aka Hit and Run, with injury or death had been interpreted to require that the accused 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 felonies.  LSA with property damage is a misdemeanor. 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). In addition, the court wrote that "one cannot 'willfully' leave an accident without awareness that an accident has occurred". Id.

In State v. Dorsett, the trial court was reversed after a defendant had requested a special jury instruction requiring actual knowledge of the crash before he could be convicted of leaving the scene of an accident with injuries.  Actual knowledge is different that "should have known". The trial court refused the instruction and the defendant was convicted. The Florida Supreme Court later ruled that actual knowledge is required.  The issue is one of splitting hairs, technicalities or to some constitutional protections. 

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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