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.