Most traffic offenses are merely civilian infractions, but a few traffic offenses are deemed under Florida law to be criminal in nature. Florida traffic crimes can qualify as both felonies and misdemeanors. The Miami criminal lawyers at DMT do not defend civil infractions, however, due to the serious nature of criminal traffic offenses our defense team represents clients charged in these types of cases. The most common criminal traffic offenses include DUI manslaughter, DUI serious bodily injury or property damage, leaving the scene of an accident (LSA), standard DUIs, varying degrees of fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer, reckless driving, racing on a highway, driving while license suspended (DWLS) and driving as a habitual traffic offender (HTO).
Fleeing and Eluding a Law Enforcement Officer
Feeling and eluding offenses range from third degree to first degree felonies. Fleeing and or eluding occurs when a person operating a motor vehicle on a public road fails to stop at the direction of a law enforcement officer. The person charged with fleeing or eluding a police officer must have known that a law enforcement officer had directed him or her to stop, and that the person wilfully failed to stop the vehicle or wilfully fled in an attempt to elude a police officer. To prove their case, the state must establish that the person knew that an officer was trying to stop them by showing that the vehicle possessed agency insignia and lights and sirens. Fleeing and eluding becomes a second degree felony when lights and sirens are activated and the defendant operated the vehicle with a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property or if a person is infjured. If a person is seriously injured or dies as a result of the fleeing and eluding, the crime becomes a first degree felony with a three year minimum/mandatory sentence. If injuries occur, a 5 year driver's license will also be included in the sentence.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident or Crash Involving Death or Injury
To prove the offense of leaving the scene of an accident or crash, the state must prove that a person was the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash resulting in the injury or death of another; that the person knew or should have known that he or she was involved in a crash; the person knew or should have known of the injury to or death of another; and that the person willfully failed to stop their motor vehicle at the scene of the crash and remain their until he or she gave identifying information to the injured person and to any police officer conducting a crash investigation or the person fails to provide reasonable assistance to an injured party. Leaving the scene of an accident with injuries is a third degree felony punishable up to 5 years in prison. If a death results, the charge will constitute a first degree felony punishable up 30 years in prison.
Reckless driving will be charged if the state can prove that a person drove a vehicle in the State of Florida; that a person operated the vehicle with a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. Willful is defined as intentionally, knowingly and purposely. Wanton is defined as acting with a conscious and intentional indifference to consequences and with the knowledge that damage is likely yo be done to persons or property. Reckless driving is a first degree misdemeanor punishable up to year in jail. Remember, that traveling at an excessive speed is not enough to sustain a conviction for reckless driving.
Racing on a Highway
In order to prove the traffic crime of racing on a highway, the state must prove that a person drove a motor vehicle in; or participated, coordinated , facilitated, or collected monies at the location of; or knowingly rode as a passenger in, or purposely caused moving traffic to slow of stop for; a race, drag race, a speed contest, an exhibition of speed on a road, highway or parking lot. A drag race is defined by statute as the operation of two or more vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speeds in a competitive attempt to outdistance each other or comparing speeds. A race is a competition involving one or more motor vehicles to outdistance each other, arrive at a location ahead of another motor vehicle or test the endurance of drivers. The offense is a first degree misdemeanor punishable up to a year in jail.
Driving While License Suspended (DWLS)
To be charged with the crime of driving while license suspended that state must prove that a person drove a motor vehicle upon a highway in this state, that the person's driving privileges were either suspended, revoked or canceled and that person while driving on the highways knew that his or her license was suspended revoked or cancelled. A DWLS unknowingly is not a criminal offense, but rather a civil infraction. A DWLS knowingly is a crime that is characterized as a first degree misdemeanor. If a person was provided notice by personal delivery by the Department of Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) a DWLS will be considered knowingly. If person has a prior DWLS citation, the police and the court will assume knowledge and charge a criminal infraction.
Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO)
The crime of driving a motor vehicle as a habitual traffic offender is a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. A person will be charged for operating a motor vehicle as a habitual traffic offender, if he or she operated a motor vehicle in this state that has previously been deemed by the Department of Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) to be a habitual traffic offender. A person will characterized as a habitual traffic offer if he or she received three or more prior withholds of adjudication or adjudications for driving while license suspended. It does not matter whether a DWLS was knowingly or unknowingly in qualifying someone as a HTO.
If you are have been arrested and charged with a traffic crime of any type, contact the Miami criminal lawyers at DMT. An experienced criminal attorney is available every day of the year, 24 hours a day to speak with you regarding your situation. Allow us the opportunity to help protect your rights and defend you case and you will not be disappointed. You can call our office at (305) 444-0030 or reach us by completing the form on our contact page or by sending an e-mail.