The criminal traffic charge of Leaving the Scene of an Accident (LSA) or Hit and Run from a crash involving a death is a serious felony.
Reckless Driving, not to be confused with careless driving, is a criminal traffic offense in Florida. An accusation of Reckless Driving does not require a crash, but property damage does enhance the offense. In a recent case, an attempt at defending a charge of Reckless Driving was made via a motion for immunity under the Stand Your Ground law.
In traffic law, the term "crash" does not mean what many people think. Seemingly many people believe that a "crash" means that there is some degree of damage to vehicles. Some have even argued that at crash should equate to a significant amount of damage. Does a crash require damage? What then is a traffic crash?
In Florida, the criminal offense of Hit and Run is called Leaving the Scene of an Accident. The severity of this crime sometimes referred to as LSA, as do so many other criminal traffic charges, depends upon the nature and the extent of the damage.
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 Florida criminal and traffic law there is an enormous difference between reckless driving and careless driving. While many people use the terms "reckless driving" and "careless driving" interchangeably, you should never hear a traffic attorney or criminal defense lawyer do so. The terms do not mean the same thing and are separate and distinct criminal or civil traffic offenses.
As a traffic ticket defense attorney, a question I am often asked by drivers from other states is the where the smaller municipalities along US 301 between Jacksonville and Gainesville conduct their traffic violation hearings. In Florida, there is no municipal court. All civil traffic infraction hearings are held in County Court and depending on the county either by a county judge or a hearing officer. You may elect to have a traffic hearing determined by a judge.