WEAR reports that hit and run wrecks are increasing in Florida. As a consequence, the state is starting a new campaign to let everyone know that leaving the scene of a crash can end in tougher penalties. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says people killed in hit and runs jumped 23% from 2013 to 2014. The numbers have jumped by 12,000 cases between 2012 and last year with 184 deaths and more than 2,100 injuries. The Florida Highway Patrol says leaving the scene of an accident is a bad decision not turning yourself in makes a bad decision worse. Under new law signed by Governor Scott called the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act leaving the scene of a fatal hit and run is mandatory jail time of 4 years. It makes leaving the scene of a wreck a second-degree felony.
If you have been injured in a hit and run accident, contact the attorneys at Brannon & Brannon for a free consultation.
Northwest Florida has seen the new law implemented in a recent case that came before Circuit Court Judge John Brown in Okaloosa County. Northwest Florida Daily News reports that Joshua Wilson, an airman, was accused of leaving the scene of an accident involving a death. Judge Brown gave Mr. Wilson a prison term of five years, which left Wilson family members weeping and the parents of the victim, Demetrius Williams, looking less than satisfied.
On February 5, 2014, at 7:40 p.m., Wilson was driving home from a bar at which he’d allegedly consumed two beers. He was driving an estimated 33 mph when he struck Williams near the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Carson Drive. The force of the impact threw the victim beneath the wheels of a car coming the other way. Wilson left the scene and went home. He shortly thereafter summoned a friend to take him back to the scene, but turned and left at the sight of law enforcement and ambulances. He was on foot, headed again to the accident scene, when he made contact with Fort Walton Beach crime scene investigators. He registered .072, just below the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol, some two (2) hours after the fatal accident occurred. Williams, 26, was wearing dark clothing and walking in the middle of the highway when he was struck. The driver of the car that Williams fell under told investigators that she didn’t see him. Timothy Flaherty, representing Wilson, argued that his client had come to authorities of his own accord, and cooperated fully even after learning he was being investigated in a traffic fatality. Flaherty commented that Wilson’s crime of leaving was unintentional, that he’d been cooperative with investigators and had shown remorse. Flaherty argued that law enforcement officers said Wilson presented no signs of being drunk at the time he was questioned. District Attorney Angela Mason argued that Wilson’s contention that he did not know he’d struck Williams was weak, considering the damage done to his truck. She proposed that he had deliberately stayed away from the crime scene long enough to sober up. Mason said the State Attorney’s Office had considered the defendant’s good character when agreeing to seek 13 years, rather than a maximum 30 years, for the crime charged. Brown said that he came to his decision on the appropriate sentence after casting aside speculation and weighing “the totality of the evidence”.