Florida hit and run law may need a new look - WNCN: News, Weather

Florida hit and run law may need a new look

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In March of 2004, former Tampa dance instructor Jennifer Porter hit four children as they were walking across the street in Tampa.  Two of the children died at the scene.

Porter sped off and never served any jail time for her actions.

In 2009, 17-year-old Jordan Valdez drove off after hitting a homeless woman and killing her in Tampa.

Valdez was sentenced to probation.

In July of this year, Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies say 38-year-old Donald Ward tried to run after hitting the vehicle of Ann Marie Fanning.  Deputies say Ward smelled of alcohol.

Criminal defense attorney Joe Bodiford says there is a disparity in Florida law between a hit and run and a D.U.I. Offense.

Bodiford says, "So you stick around, you get convicted of a DUI, you get a up to a year, you leave, they can't prove you were driving under the influence, they just know that you left, most you can get is 60 days."

Bodiford says in many hit and run cases, people run out of fear, "A lot of people do that because they panic. I don't know that they consider what the penalty would be because most folks don't walk around with a working knowledge of criminal sentencing in Florida."

However, Bodiford says the current hit and run law in Florida makes it difficult to prove someone was drinking at the time of an accident, if they are able to flee.  "The problem it's created for law enforcement is, once they follow the forensic trail and find the person who has left the scene, it's very difficult to prove they may have been under the influence at the time they were driving."

Republican State Representative Dana Young says, it may be time to take a new look at the law, "If the law in Florida somehow provides a warped incentive for someone to leave the scene of an accident, particularly if there is bodily injury, then that is something we need to look at, that is something that we need to work with law enforcement and make sure that we are creating the right legal system and the right incentives to get people to do what they should do morally."

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