The Florida Supreme Court has made a recent decision that could greatly impact the future of hit and run convictions in Florida. The February 26 decision states that “actual knowledge” by the driver that an accident has happened is needed to convict that driver of a hit and run charge.
This decision comes following an appealed Palm Beach County case in which a driver was sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of a hit and run. In the incident, a teenager was hit when he was struck by the defendant’s truck. The defendant, however, argued that a number of conditions in his truck—including radio volume and windshield wipers—had prevented him from realizing that he had hit anyone. The driver was stopped three miles away from the accident by law enforcement.
During his appeal, the defendant’s attorney claimed that the original jury should have been instructed that to violate a Florida’s hit and run law, a defendant must display “actual knowledge of the accident.” The Fourth District Court agreed and reversed the guilty verdict.
The Importance of “Willful” Violations
After the Fourth District Court’s decision, the Florida Supreme Court also voiced its support of the ruling. It noted that while the hit and run law does not mention awareness by the offender, all felony charges in Florida do require a “willful violation.” The lack of willful violation in this case means that the defendant cannot be found guilty of a criminal act.
Understanding court decisions like this one is absolutely critical for effective criminal defense strategies. Now that the Supreme Court has made this ruling, it may drastically change the way hit and run charges are brought and defended.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, then it is important to speak with a dedicated and proven West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.