FAQs About Florida’s Accident Report Privilege in DUI Cases
If you’re involved in a car accident after consuming a few drinks, you could find yourself in a difficult predicament. Florida imposes a duty to provide information and render assistance for motorists, which requires you to give responding law enforcement officers your name, address, registration, and other information. At the same time, fulfilling this legal obligation could lead to DUI charges if you slur your words, have alcohol on your breath, or give the impression that you’re impaired.
Fortunately, there is a concept called the “accident report privilege” under Florida law. A Florida DUI defense lawyer can explain the details, but some answers to frequently asked questions may give you some insight.
How does the Florida accident report privilege work? The point of the law is to ensure that police have sufficient information to conduct a thorough investigation after a crash. The privilege exists to encourage motorists to be open and honest in providing information, without worrying about the consequences of making incriminating statements. The purpose is rooted in constitutional law, specifically the 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination. As such, any statements you make when complying with your duty to offer information cannot be used in court – including a DUI case.
What constitutes a crash? You might be surprised to learn that the definition of a car accident is important, but the accident report privilege is very specific. Your duty to provide information only applies if the crash involves:
- Fatalities; or,
- Damage to a car or other property.
The first two factors are obvious, but the lines can be somewhat blurred with respect to #3. If the damage to a vehicle is imperceptible, you may not have a duty to provide information to a responding police officer. If you’re arrested and/or forced to give statements, it may be a situation of a civil rights violation.
How do I know when the accident report privilege terminates? If you are required to provide information, you should be aware that an officer may “switch hats” during your discussion. There’s a point where the questioning transitions from getting the legally required details to investigating your level of impairment. According to the accident report privilege law, police must inform you that they’re moving on to a DUI investigation. Any statements you make after this point may be inadmissible in court.
Are there any exceptions to the privilege? Yes, there are some circumstances where the privilege doesn’t apply. Evidence would be allowed in court if:
- You stated your refusal to a blood alcohol test;
- You left the scene of the crash;
- You made statements that were not in response to questioning; or,
- You made false statements.
Contact a Florida Drunk Driving Defense Lawyer Right Away
If you were arrested for DUI after being involved in the car accident, legal representation is critical. The Florida accident report privilege may provide you with a defense, but the strategies for implementing it are extremely complicated. Instead of putting your rights at risk, please contact Fort Lauderdale DUI attorney Kevin J. Kulik to assist with your case. We’re happy to set up a confidential consultation at our office to discuss defense options.