Florida Could See Harsher Hit 'N Run Penalties Soon

By  | 

BAY COUNTY Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wants harsher penalties in hit and run cases.

She called a news conference Tuesday to announce her support for the proposed legislation.

Panama City Police Department Sergeant Jon Morris explains, "Officers responded to a crash at the intersection of 15th and Frankford, and at that crash there was a hit and run crash. She actually hailed a cab, then the cab tried to drive away from the scene."

Panama City Police worked a staggering 399 hit and run cases in 2013.

Meanwhile the Panama City Beach police is reporting 499 hit and run crashes for the year 2013.

They're attributing the higher number to higher traffic during peak tourist season.

Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman says, "We have 12 million visitors and 14,000 year-round residents so there is a lot of vehicle traffic on the roadway."

Sergeant Morris says there are a number of reason drivers run.

No car insurance, no driver's license, or they're under the influence.

Morris say that was the driver in Tuesday afternoon's crash, 29-year-old Jessica Ashbaker, will be charged with DUI, among other things.
Under Florida law, drivers must serve a minimum of four years in prison for DUI manslaughter.

But leaving the scene carries a much lighter sentence, so most drunk drivers believe it's better to run.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is supporting a bill that would create a minimum four-year-sentence for leaving the scene of fatal crash.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says, "Because we have got to be vigilant, we are in Florida. We are a tourism state."

Morris agrees, saying, "I believe some of the penalties aren't as stiff as they should be."

Under current Florida law, Ashbaker could lose her license for a year.

If Bondi's legislation passes, the consequences would be much more severe.