Serious Traffic Offenses

FLEEING AND ELUDING

In recent years the Florida legislature has increased the severity and punishment for many criminal traffic offenses that were once considered misdemeanors.

The most dramatic changes have come to the penalties for fleeing and eluding a police officer. Before the recent change in the statute the most severe punishment for this offense was a year in the county jail. This sentence was rarely, if ever, imposed. The person charged could expect probation and community service and perhaps a letter of apology to the police officer.

ALL THIS HAS CHANGED.
The offense of fleeing and eluding a police officer is now treated as a third degree felony punishable up to five years in the state prison and a $5000.00 fine. The person who is guilty of this offense will be automatically adjudicated. That means a criminal record as a convicted felon. In addition, the license is automatically suspended for two years.

If certain aggravating factors are included the severity of the crime and its punishment are also dramatically increased. For example, if the driver is accused of driving recklessly during the pursuit that offense is now a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in the state prison. If it is alleged that the driver stopped causing the police to stop and then starts the pursuit again that is also charged as a second degree felony.

RECKLESS DRIVING

If it is alleged that a person charged with reckless driving caused a serious bodily injury that offense is charged as a third degree felony. If a death results the offense is charged as VEHICULAR HOMICIDE, a second degree felony .

Any person who intentionally drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property has committed the offense of Reckless Driving. If charged as a second degree misdemeanor the penalties escalate from sixty days in jail to six months.

If while committing this offense the person injures another or damages property it is treated as a first degree misdemeanor. At this level it is punishable by 364 days in the county jail and a thousand dollar fine.

If there occurs serious bodily injury then it is a felony of the third degree punishable by a maximum five years in the state prison and a five thousand dollar fine.

If the court has reason to believe that the use of alcohol contributed to the violation of this section then the court shall direct the person convicted to attend the DUI substance abuse program, or DUI School.

Of course, penalties can also include probation and community service.

AGGRESSIVE CARELESS DRIVING

The Florida legislature has recently defined the combination of two or more of the following offenses as “Aggressive Careless Driving”:

Speeding, as defined in Florida Statute 322.27;

Unsafe or Improper Lane Change, as defined in Florida Statute 316.085;

Following Too Closely, as defined in Florida Statute 316.0895

Failing To Yield the Right Of Way, as defined in Florida Statutes 316.079, 316.0815, or 316.123;

Improper Passing, as defined in Florida Statutes 316.084 or 316.085;

Violating a Traffic Control Device and Signal Devices, as defined in Florida Statutes 316.074 or 316.075.

Being charged with any of these offenses is serious business. Careful attention must be paid to selecting the right lawyer capable of obtaining the right result.

LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT

If no serious injury or death is involved this offense is charged as first degree misdemeanor. However, if there is a serious bodily injury it is charged as a third degree felony. Or, if there is a death, it is charged as a second degree felony.
The law in the State of Florida pertaining to the duty to remain and render aid, if necessary, at the scene of an accident is extremely strict and violations can be costly. Under Florida Statute 316.027, if someone involved in an accident where another person is injured it is a felony of the third degree not to stop and render aid or provide information as required by Florida Statute 316.062.

If someone is involved in a crash that results in death and fails to remain at the scene and provide information as required by Florida Statute 316.062 it is a felony of the first degree and punishable by a maximum term of thirty years in the state prison and a ten thousand dollar fine. If a person that violates this section is also driving under the influence as set forth in Florida Statute 316.193, the law requires a minimum mandatory prison sentence of two years in the state prison.

These penalties are in addition to the requirement that the person convicted must also be ordered to pay restitution as a condition of probation. The statute also authorizes the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to revoke the drivers license of anyone convicted under this section.

Florida Statute 316.062 requires anyone involved in an accident to remain at the scene and provide their name, address and vehicle registration. Upon request a drivers license must also be exhibited. The person must also render to any person injured in the crash reasonable assistance, including the carrying, of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary.

Needless to say, that in Florida an accusation of leaving the scene of an accident can have far reaching and devastating consequences. Especially, if someone involved is injured or deceased.

RACING ON THE HIGHWAY

This offense remains a first degree misdemeanor, however, now there is an automatic revocation of the drivers license for one year for a first offense or two years for a second offense.

In 2002 the law regarding Racing on the Highway changed dramatically. Prior to 2002, Racing on the Highway was considered a civil infraction-punishable by a fine and potential ramifications of your driving privileges for specified time periods such as suspension of drivers license. In 2002 this all changed. Today a charge of Racing on the Highway is considered a criminal traffic infraction-punishable by not only fines and loss of driving privileges, but also incarceration, probation, and impoundment of your automobile or motorcycle at your expense.

It is important to note that fines in the event of a Racing on the Highway charge can exceed $1,000 on top of impoundment fees that lead to expenses from being without transportation, probation fees and increased insurance fees- the fees can become overwhelming. It may seem like too much of an expense to retain a criminal defense attorney until you contrast the expenses of facing the charges unrepresented and the long term ramifications on your driving record and lifestyle-call Carlos Canet today for your consultation.

As seen, the legislature has taken dramatic steps to punish those more severely than before for committing serious traffic offenses. Consequently, the defense of these crimes is critical if the most severe punishments are to be avoided.

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