New Florida Supreme Court Ruling Spurs Success in Man’s Request for Acquittal in Hit-and-Run Case

If you or a loved one is facing criminal prosecution, there are many things that can help you get to a successful outcome. Sometimes, that event can be a ruling in another case. In the situation of a man who was accused of violating the state’s hit-and-run law, he was able to overcome the charges against him and achieve success in the Fifth District Court of Appeal after the Florida Supreme Court clarified that the accident at issue in his case did not qualify as a “crash,” which was required in order to trigger a prosecution under the statute.

The underlying events that led to this prosecution involved a dispute gone very wrong. According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the dispute related to an unpaid debt or a drug deal “gone bad.” Regardless of the motivations, the scene involved Joseph Daugherty inside the driver’s seat of a parked car and Joshua Krodel trying to gain entry to the car through a window. Daugherty shifted the car into gear and sped away. Krodel eventually fell from the car and suffered a fatal head injury when he hit the ground.

From these events, the state charged Daugherty with “leaving the scene of a crash involving death,” in violation of Section 316.027(c)(2) of the Florida Statutes. That statute, better known as the state’s “hit and run” statute, makes it a crime for a driver not to “immediately stop the vehicle” when “involved in a crash occurring on public or private property which results in the death of a person.”

At first glance, the state might seem to have a strong case in this situation. Undisputedly, Krodel was dead, and Daugherty didn’t stop after the injury occurred. Indeed, that was what the state argued – that the requisite crash occurred when Krodel’s head hit the pavement. The trial court accepted this argument and allowed the conviction to stand, despite Daugherty’s request for a judgment of acquittal.

While Daugherty’s case was ongoing, the Florida Supreme Court provided some clarity this summer. The high court addressed a somewhat similar case in Gauldin v. State. In that case, the deceased person was a passenger in a pickup truck who, while fighting with the driver, opened up the passenger side door and fell out of the truck. The impact with the ground killed the passenger. The driver did not stop. The Supreme Court declared that, in order for an event to qualify as a “crash” under Section 316.027 and for the driver to face criminal prosecution for violating the law, the vehicle must necessarily strike another vehicle, an object, or a person.

Had the legislature used the wording “involved in an accident” instead of “involved in a crash,” both the convictions in Gauldin’s case and Daugherty’s case might have remained intact. The Supreme Court, in its opinion in the Gauldin case, explained that “accident” is necessarily a broader term than “crash.” A vehicle crash requires that the vehicle driven by the person facing prosecution must collide with something. In Daugherty’s case, his car collided with nothing; the only collision was Krodel’s head colliding with the ground. That did not count under the hit-and-run statute.

In this case, Daugherty was able to use an important new ruling from the Florida Supreme Court in another case to make a winning argument regarding his own case. Experienced criminal counsel can help you by offering up-to-date knowledge of the law and by persuasively applying the law to the facts of your case. The experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. have been helping the accused for many years. Our attorneys have the skill and knowledge you or your loved one needs on your side. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your free initial consultation and get the answers and assistance you need.

More blog posts:

Teen driving laws have a surprising impact on crime, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, April 7, 2016

Why you need to hire your lawyer before charges are filed, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, Aug. 28, 2015

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