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?
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!
Bradford County is located between Gainesville in Alachua County and Jacksonville in Duval County, Florida. Several agencies issue traffic tickets within Bradford County. The main police agencies are those of Starke and Lawtey. The towns of Brooker and Hampton do not have their own police force and the towns traffic laws are enforced by the Bradford County Sheriff's Office. The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) also issues citatations on the roads of Bradford County. Starke is the county seat of Bradford County. All traffic hearings take place in Starke.
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.
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.