Sometimes, people panic and leave the scene of a traffic collision for a variety of reasons. Often, they’re the ones who caused the crash. Sometimes, they have illegal items in their vehicle or are already wanted by the police. No matter why someone runs or drives away, it’s only going to make matters worse for them.
Leaving the scene of a crash – particularly one that caused injuries or death –is a serious offense. A recent Florida Supreme Court ruling reiterated that a person can be charged with one count of leaving the scene for every person injured or killed – not just one count for the act of fleeing.
Tallahassee crash killed one, injured three
The case decided by the court earlier this year involved a crash in Tallahassee at the end of 2017 that killed one teen and injured three other people. The defendant was reportedly going over 90 miles per hour at the time.
He was convicted and sentenced to 45 years in prison for three counts of leaving a crash scene that caused an injury. (A fourth count was dismissed.) He was also convicted of vehicular homicide.
Courts disagreed on whether the sentence involved double jeopardy
An appellate court ruled that the multiple counts violated the double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution that says a person can’t be prosecuted more than once for the same crime. That court vacated two of the convictions with its ruling.
All but one of the Supreme Court justices agreed with the trial court and prosecutors that multiple counts were warranted. The ruling noted that laws involving fleeing a scene are “victim-centric” – meaning that they require “prosecution on a per-crash-victim basis, rather than on a per-crash basis.”
This is just one scenario where it’s possible to face multiple charges for what may appear to be one illegal action. Sometimes by plea bargaining with the prosecution, it’s possible to get some of the charges dropped. This is just one reason why it’s essential to have experienced legal guidance when you’re facing criminal charges.