Proposed Bill to Toughen Hit and Run Sentences in Florida

Jan 30, 2014 Posted by in Auto Accident, Bicycle and Pedestrian Accidents, DUI

In the state of Florida, drivers who have too many drinks and fatally hit someone on the road would face a DUI manslaughter charge with a minimum of 4 years in prison. However, drunk drivers who leave the accident scene to sober up and turn themselves in later would have lighter punishment. This generally means drunk drivers who stay at the scene after killing someone in a motor vehicle accident could face stiffer penalties than deadly drunk drivers who flee the scene.

The minimum prison sentence for deadly hit-and-run drivers is only two years, even if the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Interestingly, drunk drivers convicted of DUI manslaughter would automatically face a term of four years. Somehow, it appears that state law is providing an incentive for deadly hit-and-run DUI drivers.

In Feb. 2012, a bicyclist was fatally struck on the Rickenbacker Causeway by a silver Honda driven by Michele Traverso, who drove home after hitting the bicyclist. Witness accounts suggest that Traverso had several gin drinks at a bar hours before the accident. Traverso turned himself in after 18 hours. In December, Traverso was sentenced to a year in jail and 2 years house arrest.

The Sun Sentinel reported on Jan. 12 that State Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami), has filed the “Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act” bill that would toughen mandatory sentences for hit-and-run drivers. With his SB 102, hit-and-run convictions would become felonies. He has proposed that drivers who flee the accident scene would spend at least 3 years for any injury, 7 years for serious injury, and at least 10 years in prison for fatality, instead of spending only 4 years behind bars when convicted of DUI manslaughter.

State Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla told the Sun Sentinel that the law should not make it easier on deadly DUI drivers just because they left the accident scene.

Many deadly hit-and-run DUI drivers in Florida were able to lighten their offense by fleeing the scene of the crash. On Dec. 16, a 53 year old man, was bicycling along Northeast 18th Ave. in Fort Lauderdale when he was struck by a Mustang. The driver drove straight home and took a nap. He was later arrested but it was too late for authorities to consider DUI charges.

In September, Edward Compton of Davie, 52, died after being run over by a car. The driver turned herself into police 3 days later, admitting she had a cell phone but did not call 911.

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