The accident report privilege is a Florida law that prohibits the introduction of evidence obtained by a police officer while investigating an accident. Normally, a police officer avoids this by informing the defendant that he is “switching hats.” The officer tells the defendant that he is no longer investigating the crash, but instead, he is investigating a possible crime, such as DUI.
A recent Florida DUI (Driving Under the Influence) case from the 9th circuit held that certain evidence in a Florida DUI case would be inadmissible due to the accident report privilege. In State v. Peltz, FLWSUPP 169PELTZ (June 10, 2009), a Florida State Trooper arrived at the scene of an accident in which the defendant crashed into a power pole. By the time the trooper arrived, the defendant was being escorted out of the vehicle. While investigating the crash, the defendant told the trooper that he was the driver of the vehicle. According to Vender v. State, this type of driver identification is protected by the accident report privilege. Vender, 849 So. 2d 1207, 1212 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003). The prosecutor failed to present any evidence, besides the trooper’s testimony, that the Defendant was the driver of the vehicle. Eventually, the trooper told the Defendant that he was going to conduct a criminal investigation, and he read the defendant his Miranda warnings. After doing so, he asked the defendant to “re-explain” the accident.
The court ruled that “Florida law excludes statements made by a defendant subsequent to the reading of his Miranda rights which merely ‘restate’ or ‘re-explain’ statements the defendant made during the crash investigation, these statements, too, are inadmissible at trial.”
Therefore, the Florida State Trooper did not have probable cause to believe that the defendant was the driver of the vehicle. Without other evidence, the state failed to prove that defendant was the driver of the vehicle. The state must prove that the Defendant was driving in order to convict a Florida driver of DUI.
For more information on Florida’s Accident Report Privilege and Driving Under the Influence, contact a Jacksonville DUI Attorney.