Closing The Hit and Run Loophole
February 26, 2014
A new law is making its way through the Florida legislature that will close a loophole that many feel has been open too long. Many feel that drunk or drugged drivers have gotten the word that it’s better to flee the scene of a collision and escape the severe penalties of a DUI and wait until they’re sober to turn themselves in on the less severe charge of Leaving the Scene of a Collision.
The bill is known as the “Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act.” Aaron Cohen was a bicyclist who was struck and killed by a motorist who fled the scene of the collision in February of 2012. The driver turned himself into authorities a day later and was charged with leaving the scene of a collision. There is no way to know if the driver had really been under the influence but, if he was, the period between the collision and turning himself into authorities gave him plenty of time to sober up. He was eventually sentenced to just under a year in jail. Had he been charged with DUI Manslaughter, under Florida law, he would have had to serve a minimum of four years in prison.
The new law seeks to prevent drivers from fleeing the scene of a collision by making the penalties just as harsh as the DUI laws. Under the new law, a driver who flees the scene of a collision will have to serve a mandatory prison term of:
- Three years if the crash results in injury to a person;
- Seven years if the crash results in serious bodily injury to a person; or
- Ten years if the crash results in the death of a person.
In addition to the above, the driver will:
- Have his or her driver license revoked for a minimum period of at least 3 years
- Participate in a victim’s impact panel session in a judicial circuit if such panel exists; or
- Participate in a driver education course relating to the rights of vulnerable road users relative to vehicles on the roadway.
- Serve 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital that regularly receives victims of vehicle accidents.
- Pay restitution to the victim or victim’s family (this is in addition to fines, court costs, etc.).
The bill, so far, has made it through both the Criminal Justice Committee and the Transportation Committee with unanimous support. It now goes on to the House and Senate for approval. For anyone wishing to voice support of the bill, you can write to your legislator at: https://secure2.convio.net/madd/site/Advocacy;jsessionid=F595F92F3D08EFACD9B029BEFAADB248.app263b?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1345
For more information on the bill visit the Aaron Cohen Law website.