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The Villages
Tuesday, March 28, 2023

FHP promises hit-and-run drivers will be held accountable

Marilyn Hamilton

A five-year trend is showing a “disturbing” rise in hit-and-run crashes in Florida.

In December, 91-year-old Marilyn Hamilton of The Villages was sentenced to five years in prison after hitting husband-and-wife bicyclists pedaling on Morse Boulevard. It was a sobering sentence for such an elderly woman with no prior criminal history. At Hamilton’s sentencing hearing, the judge made it clear it was her decision to flee that required such a tough sentence.

In Florida over the past five years, there were 515,957 hit-and-run crashes that resulted in 1,251 fatalities. That, on average, is 103,191 hit-and-run crashes resulting in 250 deaths per year in the state.

“Florida has been experiencing far too many hit-and-run tragedies for far too long, and this needs to change,” Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Dave Kerner said. “Drivers who flee the scene of a crash are law breakers and displaying disregard towards other people’s lives and property. Fleeing the scene of a crash will cause severe, lifelong penalties, and law enforcement – including our State Troopers – will track down those offenders to make sure they are held accountable under the law.”

It was a trooper who tracked down Hamilton after she had her damaged white Mercedes towed to a dealership in Gainesville in 2020 after hitting the bicyclists, who are residents of the Village of Dunedin.

State troopers have also been successful in tracking down other hit-and-run suspects:

Lloyd Douglas Walters
Lloyd Douglas Walters
Salvador Acosta Hernandez
Salvador Acosta Hernandez
William Joseph Croop Jr.

• FHP found the driver of a Jaguar that fled the scene in 2020 after hitting a Villager on a bicycle near the Manatee Recreation Center. The bicyclist suffered severe head trauma including memory loss, a broken rib, and a fractured shoulder along with lacerations on his face and head. The 61-year-old hit-and-run driver, William Joseph Croop, was sentenced to five years in prison.

• In January, FHP arrested an unlicensed driver from Mexico who fled the scene of a hit-and-run crash on Cherry Lake Road which injured a woman and her daughter. He is facing a felony charge of hit and run.

• In December, FHP arrested a driver who struck and killed a motorcyclist on State Road 44 at Morse Boulevard. The driver, 59-year-old Lloyd Douglas Walters of Leesburg, is facing charges of leaving the scene of a crash involving death, driving under the influence manslaughter and no valid driver’s license.

Hit-and-run penalties

Under Florida law, a driver must stop immediately at the scene of a crash on public or private property that results in property damage, injury, or death:

  • If the crash involves property damage, leaving the scene is classified as a second-degree misdemeanor, with penalties up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
  • Leaving the scene of a crash with injuries is a second- or third-degree felony and a driver, when convicted, will have their driver license revoked for at least three years and can be sentenced up to five years in prison and incur a $5,000 fine.
  • Drivers who leave the scene of a crash with a fatality face a first-degree felony with a mandatory minimum of four years in prison, and they could be sentenced up to 30 years and incur a $10,000 fine.

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