Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Former star of reality tv show “The Bachelor” was arrested in his native Iowa last week and charged with leaving the scene of an accident with death after he is alleged to have rear ended a tractor driven by Kenny Mosher and fleeing the scene. According to a news report, the accident occurred approximately 15 miles south of his hometown of Arlington, Iowa, a town featured in the 2015 season of the Bachelor. According to police, when they arrived on scene they found Soules’ abandoned truck near the crash scene and alcoholic beverage containers within. Soules made an initial appearance in Buchanan County on April 25, 2017 and was ultimately released on a $10,000 bond. Soules’ attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the felony charge, alleging in part that Soules did not violate Iowa’s leaving the scene of scene of an accident statute because he called 911 and identified himself. His lawyers further claim that Soules remained on scene and attempted to resuscitate Mosher until first responders arrived, remaining for several minutes after their arrival.
While I am a Florida attorney and not licensed in Iowa, I cannot speak to the workings of Iowa’s criminal code. Florida statute 316.027 requires the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property which results in the death of a person to immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and remain at the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of Florida Statute 316.062. Florida Statute 316.062, in this instance would require Soules to either give his name, address, and vehicle registration information to the other party to the crash or a police officer responding if the other party to the crash is not in a condition to receive the information.
Ultimately the State Attorney’s Office, in situations such as these, will assume that the individual left the scene because they were intoxicated. Florida has contemplated the fact that this happens, more than it should unfortunately, and has closed the loophole on a safe harbor for one who leaves the scene in an accident causing death. Regardless of whether the person is found to be driving under the influence at the time of crash leading to death, if the individual leaves the scene, they are subject to a four-year minimum mandatory prison term if convicted. The charge is a first-degree felony as well, thereby requiring an adjudication of guilt. In essence, what the legislature has done is eliminate any benefit for a person to flee the scene and, from a practical standpoint, likely makes it worse on one who does leave if they are to plea given the interpretation of their actions by the State and Judge.
In Soules’ instance, because he did call 911 and did give his information when no police officer was present, under Florida law, he could at least argue that he complied with statute. Florida statute 316.062(2) states that when no police officer is present, the driver, after fulfilling the requirements of Florida Statute 316.027, shall forthwith report the crash to the nearest office of a duly authorized police authority and submit the information mentioned above. Soules could argue that he remained on scene, rendered aid, called 911 and gave his information, and only left after first responders arrived. A criminal attorney in Florida would argue that because he did this, he has complied with Statutory dictate. For argument’s sake, if he notified authorities of his whereabouts and they did not contact him, or did but did not have reasonable suspicion of DUI and therefor performed no DUI investigation, under Florida law it is at least arguable that he would have complied with his statutory duty.
While every State has different laws and verbiage within, in many instances when one is accused of a crime such as this, there is room for argument either way. Whether Soules is guilty or not, the situation is a tragedy and the Iowa court system will ferret out the details. If you’ve been charged with leaving the scene of an accident or another State or Federal crime, contact Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney Richard F. Della Fera, Esq. 954.514.9955