In 2012, in the state of Florida, there were nearly 70,000 hit-and-run crashes in which nearly 17,000 people were injured and 166 died.
Our friend, Aaron Cohen, was one of those who died. He was a charismatic 36-year-old triathlete with a beautiful family and his whole life ahead of him. Aaron was cycling early in the morning when he was hit by a motorist who had been out at multiple bars all night. The motorist did not stop. Instead, with the help of his family, he hid his car and turned himself in with his attorney later the next day. Enough time had elapsed by the time he turned himself in that no biological evidence could be taken to verify if he was DUI.
The motorist pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident involving death. However, the sentencing guidelines in the state of Florida allowed the judge to sentence him to only 364 days in jail and two years of house arrest. Had he been charged with DUI manslaughter, he would have served at least four years in prison.
Aaron Cohen's widow and two young children, both under the age of 3 at the time of his death, will have to live the rest of their lives without their father, while the person who killed him will be out of jail before their next birthday.
We support legislation which will:
- Impose a minimum mandatory sentence for Leaving the Scene of an Accident (LSA) with injury or death so that it is greater than that of DUI with injury or death.
- Create a 'Vulnerable Road User' component within this legislation which provides a greater mandatory minimum sentence for drivers who leave the scene of a crash involving a vulnerable road user, as the duty to render aid to these persons is critical. Vulnerable road users include: pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, highway workers, first responders, police officers, and construction workers.
For more information about this initiative, go to AaronCohenLaw.org.
At present, the Florida sentencing guidelines for drivers who leave the scene are not commensurate with the crime. Many of the drivers who leave the scene of a crash involving injury or death do so to avoid getting caught driving under the influence (DUI). In fact, it is often the case that drivers who hit and run are fleeing the scene to avoid having law enforcement collect evidence to confirm DUI (which at present, carries much harsher penalties than leaving the scene). Imposing mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment to drivers who are found guilty of knowingly leaving the scene of a crash involving injury or death may decrease the frequency of these incidents in Florida, as there will be no longer be an “incentive” to flee since the penalty will be severe - regardless of whether the driver is found guilty of DUI.
On behalf of all concerned citizens, we appreciate your time and consideration and we look forward to having your support for this legislation in the 2014 session.