Hit and Run vs. DUI
Regardless of the circumstances, hit and run charges and DUI charges are both serious. Clients often ask me if one is worse than the other, but the bottom line is each charge alone has damaging consequences. Getting accused of both crimes together is even more devastating.
Depending on the details of your hit and run and/or DUI allegations, you could be looking at misdemeanor or felony charges. Aggravating factors such as injuries, deaths, level of intoxication, prior offenses, and intent will play a significant role in determining your exact charges and penalties. Not to mention, the victims may sue you for their injuries resulting from your offense(s).
How Bad Is a Hit and Run Charge?
Hit and run accusations should be taken seriously. They are highly common, which is why Florida police officers are working to minimize these instances by putting suspects behind bars.
Between 2015 and 2020, a total of 600,185 hit and run crashes occurred, resulting in 1,298 traffic fatalities. In 2020 alone, 83% of the 255 deaths from a hit and run crash happened during dawn, dusk, or nighttime conditions.
A hit and run can happen either intentionally or unintentionally. For instance, you could hit a pole without realizing it, especially if you drive a large vehicle. Or maybe you hit something or someone and fled the scene because you panicked.
Whether you hit a person or property, you must handle the situation appropriately to avoid hit and run allegations. The simplest and most effective decision you can make in this situation is to stay at the scene to render aid and/or leave a note.
Is Hitting a Parked Car Considered Hit and Run?
It’s one thing to hit a parked car, but once you leave the scene of the accident, things can take a turn for the worst. When the driver of the parked vehicle isn’t at the scene, you need to notify them properly. To best avoid a hit and run accusation after hitting a parked car in Florida, you should remain at the scene of the crash and leave a note including:
- Your name
- Your contact information
- Your address
- Your vehicle registration number
If the driver is at the accident scene, however, you should exchange the same information listed above but also show your license upon their request. They may also request your insurance information to file a claim, so be prepared to present it.
For crashes involving property damage, failing to stay at the scene and give your information is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days and/or a $500 fine.
Penalties for Hit and Run Involving Injury or Death
If you hit one or more persons and they get injured, call 9-1-1 immediately. You must render aid to anyone injured in the crash you caused, so if circumstances call for it, get medical help for the victims right away.
Before you leave, ensure you exchange the same information with the injured driver as you would for a hit and run resulting in property damage (see above).
Failing to stop your vehicle, stay at the accident scene, and exchange the correct information following a hit and run resulting in injury could result in third-degree felony charges punishable by up to 5 years in prison or 5 years’ probation and/or a $5,000 fine.
What happens if a hit and run results in death? You could get charged with a first-degree felony if you willfully leave the scene and do not get emergency medical help for the victim. If convicted, you’re looking at a mandatory minimum of 4 years in prison which could extend to 35 years, as well as a $10,000 fine.
Calling 9-1-1 is your first and foremost step in these situations, and once the police arrive at the scene, they will gather the details and likely arrest you. From there, you should get a lawyer to inform you of your rights and defend your case.
Florida DUI Statute
Driving under the influence is illegal in all 50 states. In Florida, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, therefore, if you are convicted of a first-time DUI in this state, you’re looking at penalties such as:
- Up to 6 months in jail
- Up to $2,000 fines
- 180 days to 1 year of license suspension
- Up to 50 community service hours
- Ignition interlock installation for up to 6 months
More DUI offenses mean harsher consequences. If you commit 4 or more DUI offenses, you could permanently lose your license, go to jail for up to 5 years, and pay a maximum of $2,000 fines. Although this is the worst-case scenario, you could still get in deep legal trouble for a DUI offense, regardless of your prior DUIs.
What Happens if I Hit and Run with a DUI?
If you committed a hit and run offense while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may be subjected to the penalties set out for each individual offense. For example, if you were intoxicated and committed a hit and run involving property damage, the State could impose a DUI Property Damage/Injury charges for each vehicle or person damaged or injured on top of a hit and run charge.
Depending on your criminal record and the nature of your alleged DUI hit and run, the following DUI punishments may be added to your hit and run charge:
- 6 months to 5 years in prison
- Hundreds to thousands of dollars in fines
- License suspension
- Alcohol education courses
- Community service hours
- Ignition interlock device installation
- Vehicle immobilization
If you commit a DUI hit and run in Florida, you may incur additional criminal charges such as reckless driving or vehicular homicide (if injuries or deaths occur). A judge will exercise discretion when punishing you for the combination of these offenses. Talk to a lawyer to get a better idea of what you may be up against.
With all this information in mind, you can see that DUI charges and hit and run charges are equally as damaging. One offense is not “worse” than the other ― they are both bad.
If you are facing hit and run and/or DUI charges in Miami, you need a defense attorney who will go the extra mile to stand up for your rights. As a former prosecutor, I know how both sides of the system operate and can use my key insights to help get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether.