The attorneys at the Morris Law Firm represent clients arrested for DUI with property damage in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and the surrounding areas of Pinellas County. In many of these cases, the accident report privilege renders evidence inadmissible at trial.
A recent decision, State v. Ramsubhag, 23 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 380a (June 22, 2015), shows that when a Florida Highway Patrol trooper requested that a defendant submit to field sobriety exercises before the reading of the Miranda warnings, the pre-Miranda refusal to perform exercises is inadmissible. Likewise, any statements made by the suspect prior to the reading of Miranda would also be inadmissible at trial in the criminal prosecution.
The case shows that after the accident investigation is over, the officer must read the Miranda warning and tell the suspect that a criminal investigation has begun. Statements taken in violation of the accident report privilege, even an alleged refusal to submit to testing, are inadmissible at trial if not taken after the reading of Miranda.
In DUI investigations involving a crash, the officers have a duty to read Miranda upon conclusion of the accident investigation and commencement of the criminal investigation. State v. Marshall, 695 So. 2d 686 (Fla. 1997). Without Miranda warnings, any statements Defendant made during the criminal investigation would be excluded.
The Accident Report Privilege in Florida
“Except as specified in this subsection, each crash report made by a person involved in a crash and any statement made by such person to a law enforcement officer for the purpose of completing a crash report required by this section shall be without prejudice to the individual so reporting. No such report or statement shall be used as evidence in any trial, civil, or criminal. However, subject to the applicable rules of evidence, a law enforcement officer at a criminal trial may testify as to any statement made to the officer by the person involved in the crash if that person’s privilege against self-incrimination is not violated.”
The intention of the Legislature in adopting subsection (7) was to encourage true and uninhibited reports of accidents, the ultimate goal being to make highways safer. Additionally, the purpose of the accident report privilege is to ensure that the State does not violate an individual’s constitutional right against self-incrimination when he is compelled to truthfully report the facts concerning a crash to law enforcement. State v. Norstrom, 613 So. 2d 437, 440 (Fla. 1993); State v. Cino, 931 So. 2d 164 (Fla. 5th DCA), rev. denied, 941 So. 2d 367 (Fla. 2006).
Therefore, if the trooper makes the request that the suspect submit to Field Sobriety Exercises at a point in time when the suspect still enjoys the benefit of Florida’s statutory Accident Report Privilege then any refusal to take the field sobriety exercises will be excluded at trial. The Florida Supreme Court has established a bright line as to when that accident report privilege ceases to be operative, and that bright line is when a defendant has been informed of his Miranda rights.
Therefore, during a DUI with property damage case, in order for a suspect’s refusal to submit to Field Sobriety Exercises to be admissible, the request to take the exercises had to be made after the suspect was read the Miranda warning.
Finding an Attorney for DUI Property Damage Cases in Pinellas County, FL
The attorneys at the Morris Law Firm represent clients charged with DUI with property damage in Pinellas County, FL. After the crash, the officers first responsibility is to complete an accident report. Any statements made during that stage of the case would be inadmissible during a criminal trial. In many of these case, the criminal defense attorney will file a motion in limimi to exclude any of these statements or any alleged refusal from evidence at trial.
If the judge excludes this evidence, it might lead to a dismissal of the entire case. Even if the entire case is not dismissed, having this evidence excluded might make it easier for the criminal defense attorney to obtain a “not guilty” verdict at trial or negotiate a better pre-trial plea bargain to avoid a DUI conviction.
If you were arrested for a DUI with property damage in Pinellas County, any statements you made in response to questioning before the reading of Miranda might be excluded from evidence at trial under the accident report privilege.
Call an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Morris Law Firm in St. Petersburg, Florida, to discuss your case today. We represent clients charged with drunk driving in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and the surrounding areas of Pinellas County, FL. We also represent clients in the surrounding counties in DUI with property damages cases including Pasco County, Hillsborough County and Manatee County.