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.
In Florida, a traffic ticket for failing to come to a stop for a school is a civil traffic infraction and not a criminal charge. The traffic law states that any driver "shall, upon approaching any school bus which displays a stop signal, bring such vehicle to a full stop while the bus is stopped, and the vehicle shall not pass the school bus until the signal has been withdrawn." Failing to stop for a school bus is always a moving violation. Then it gets more confusing.
Driving on a suspended license can be a criminal or civil case in Florida. Too many charges of driving while suspended can result in a 5-year revocation of a driver's license as a habitual offender.
What if you received a traffic citation in Florida but you live in another state and cannot come back to fight the ticket in Court? There is a fundamental right to travel in the United States. However, when using the roads such as north Florida's main arteries of I-75, US 301, US 441 a driver can be ticketed even if they ain't from around here and are unfamiliar with the area. Some drivers call the office and feel that they may have even been targeted because they are from out of town or just visiting. We can defend the citation in court and maybe have it thrown out, dismissed or have a driver found not guilty, but we cannot change the circumstance that the driver stands accused. We defend against the accusation.
Traffic tickets are issued for single vehicle or car crashes. A person ticketed for careless driving, failing to maintain a lane, or any other traffic citation charge brought as a result of a crash involving only one vehicle should always chose to take the infraction to court. In that instance the person cited received the ticket because there was an accident and for no other reason.
For some it is getting the letter or notice of Habitual Traffic Offender ("HTO") in the mail. For others it is getting arrested after being pulled over for no reason or even if there was a traffic citation, surprise! The license is being, or has been, suspended for five (5) years. The driver has been habitualized! After Notice from the DHSMV, we can determine the next step to attempt to reinstate the license. An analysis of the driver record may be required.
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.
Many criminal cases such as drug possession, drug trafficking and not just DUI or other criminal traffic charges begin with a mere traffic stop. Until recently, clients were advised that if they are driving a blue car and the registration states the registered vehicle is white then, that alone is a sufficient basis for a stop. This would mean that if a person purchased a used car that was white, registered it and then had it painted black with red flames the mere fact that the car was painted would cause an inconsistency with the registration sufficient to justify a traffic stop. Many times, this is where the officer says they smell marijuana or they have a dog that alerts to cocaine or other drugs. When drugs are found a person is charged with possession or drug trafficking. In other words, painting your car is going to get you stopped but only at the discretion of the officer's suspicion. While it may seem outrageous that you can be stopped merely for painting your car, that may appear suspicious to a government worker driving a government car who is not responsible for the government paint job. That and people who steal cars tend to switch the plates of similar make and model cars. Obviously, in the eyes of law enforcement officers anyone who paints their car is suspicious.
I finally got to litigate the Dunnellon red Light Camera; after what feels like an eternity of fielding calls a resident finally issued a challenge to the government. The Dunnellon red light camera case was dismissed. Fighting the red light camera ticket was worth it because the government is lacking a very necessary step. I am not going to say what they are missing. If the Dunnellon officer in court was paying attention, they know why the case was dismissed. I urge all of you issued a citation from a red light camera in Dunnellon, Florida to fight back.