FL Stat 316.062 vs. 5th Amendment

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The accident report privilege was established to preserve an individual's Fifth Amendment rights pursuant to the US Constitution while at the same time, requiring a driver to report an automobile accident under state regulations. Pursuant to Florida Statute 316.062, a driver that is in an automobile accident has a legal duty to supply the authorities with his full name, address, driver license, insurance as well as other information for the purposes of completing an crash investigation report. Failure to supply the documents and information required by law is a criminal offense. If confessing to driving a vehicle would force the driver to admit the commission of a criminal offense, such as DUI, then the mandatory reporting statute conflicts with the individual privilege against self incrimination. Accordingly, FL Stat. 316.066(7) eliminates the conflict by providing that all statements given by an individual subject to Florida Statute 316.062 are "without prejudice" & the information obtained are not able to be used in any and all future legal proceedings.

Law enforcement tend to handle this in 1 of 2 ways. The law enforcement officer at the scene of the accident can tell the individual "I am now beginning a criminal investigation" alternatively, the police officer can request an "independent crash investigator." An independent crash investigator handles the criminal investigation without the use of the information obtained in the accident report.

In The First District Court of Appeal overturned the circuit court's finding of guilt and sentencing of the defendant for a felony DUI conviction. Appellate court ruled that the police officer's testimony was wrongfully admitted into evidence in violation of the accident report privilege and the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution as was conceded by the prosecution. The district court of appeal held that this error wasn't harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, and ordered ordered a new trial.

The State of Florida is one of the few, if not the only, state that has an explicit accident report privilege statute. In other states the defendant should raise the constitutional argument against self-incrimination in every accident case where the information from the accident report is used against the defendant during a criminal matter. There have been mixed results depending on the jurisdiction. A lot of the cases are determined by whether the defendant was made aware, knew or should have known that the officer had switched from a civil to a criminal investigation. A standard practice for all police officers investigating an accident, and suspect criminal activity, should be to inform the suspect when the civil aspect of the investigation is complete & when the criminal investigation begins.

For additional information on Fort Lauderdale DUI Lawyer or Fort Lauderdale Criminal Lawyer please contact: The Law Offices of Michael A. Dye, PA 1 E Broward Blvd #700 Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954)990-0525

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