By: Miami Criminal Traffic Lawyer Albert Quirantes
A Florida woman who allegedly hit another vehicle without stopping to render assistance (a crime in Florida and all other states) was found quite easily because her own car’s 911 Assist system apparently linked the woman’s phone to a police officer on dispatch duty without her realizing what was happening.
The accident happened near Northwest Prima Vista Boulevard when 57 year old Cathy Bernstein allegedly hit two vehicles one after the other. Both Bernstein and one of the other drivers were injured but Bernstein apparently fled the scene with her Ford truck damaged in front.
It seems that the automatic Assist system fitted to Bernstein’s truck put her in touch with police. It goes into action if there is an accident in which the vehicle’s air bag is at least partially deployed. The system is primarily designed to help the driver and passengers in the car itself, especially if an accident happens in a place where there is no-one immediately to render assistance, but in this case the system did not differentiate between the Ford and the vehicle it hit.
It seems that Bernstein tried to deny the accident had happened when questioned by the police officer who took the phone call. She is reported to have told the police officer that she had narrowly missed another vehicle that had shot out in front of her but not actually made contact.
The officer was apparently unconvinced by the story and police were sent around to Bernstein’s home address where the Ford was discovered with a damaged front wing and a smattering of silver paint from the vehicle that had been hit. Bernstein is reported to have initially told cops that she had only hit “a tree”. They had already been deployed to the accident scene after a woman in one of the vehicles that had been hit had called the police to tell them that she had been hit by a “black Ford”.
Both Bernstein and Anna Preston, the woman whose vehicle had been hit were coincidentally taken to the same hospital to treat injuries that thankfully were only minor.
Bernstein has been charged with “leaving the scene of an accident”, an offense which is popularly also called a “hit and run.” She has been released from the St. Lucie County jail on bail.
Hit and run offenses are treated very seriously by Florida Law Enforcement and prosecutors in Florida. There are three categories of Leaving the Scene of an accident (LSA) offenses in Florida and the penalties depend on what or who has been damaged and the degree of injury in the case of personal injury.
The least serious offense is when property has been damaged and the offending driver has driven off without leaving details behind or contacting the police. This can be considered a misdemeanor and may be punishable with up to 60 days in jail and a fine of $500.
The next step in terms of seriousness is when the driver has hit one or more people and injured them and hasn’t stopped to render assistance and report the matter to the police. This could land them in jail for up to 5 years and lead to a fine of up to $5,000 and is classed as a third degree felony.
The most serious offense is when someone has been killed and the driver responsible has fled the scene without helping in any way or notifying the police. This is considered a first degree felony and may lead to jail of a period of up to 30 years and a fine of $10,000 or both.
There may be many reasons why a driver has left the scene of an accident in what appears to be a hit and run scenario and there may be grounds for a defense which limits the penalties or leads to the charge being dropped altogether. The potential penalties are too serious for anyone arrested of a hit and run offense not to contact an experienced Florida hit and run defense attorney who will do their best to make sure that justice is done fairly. A lawyer practicing in this area must stay abreast of the latest case law involving driver identification, admissibility of statements over the accident report privilege, corpus delicti, restitution and other issues which will have an impact on the Defendnt’s rights in these cases. That’s what we do all day at the Ticket Law Center criminal defense law firm in Miami.
Nobody wants to go to jail, get tickets on their license or get their license suspended. Thus, if you are serious about protecting yourself and your driving record, then hire my Criminal Traffic defense team at Ticket Law Center. We’ll go to court for you and go to bat for you.
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If you have any questions about this or any other Traffic Ticket, DUI or Criminal accusation, call Miami TicketLawyer Albert Quirantes at: 305-644-1800 or visit our homepage at www.TicketLawyer.com for a direct link to the office or a text message or a map and directions.