Under Florida law, after a crash involving property damage, personal injury, serious bodily injury, or death, the driver is required tby statute to give his name, address, license number and registration documents to the police. The driver is also required to provide a statement. In order to assure that compliance with this law did not violate a persons rights against self incrimination the legislature enacted the Accident Report Privilige. The “Accident Report Privilege” is a Florida law (F.S. 316.066) that prohibits any statements made to a police officer during a crash investigation from being used as evidence in any hearing or trial. If the officer wishes to obtain statements that are admissible the officer must “change hats” and tell the person that he is beginning a criminal investigation and then read Miranda warnings.
F.S. 316.066(7) 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 results of breath, urine, and blood tests administered as provided in s. 316.1932 or s. 316.1933 are not confidential and shall be admissible into evidence in accordance with the provisions of s. 316.1934(2). Crash reports made by persons involved in crashes shall not be used for commercial solicitation purposes; however, the use of a crash report for purposes of publication in a newspaper or other news periodical or a radio or television broadcast shall not be construed as “commercial purpose.”
Careless Driving is a very common ticket issued in Florida. Particuarly, in accident cases, and more particuarly in rear end accident cases. In rear-end accident cases the officer most times didn’t see the accident occur and therefore doesn’t know what exactly caused the accident, and in many cases the person rear-ended didn’t see what happened or why. Officers therefore will often times issue a citation (ticket) for Careless Driving. Careless Driving citations are often referred to as the catch-all citation and are issued when the officer cann’t find any other specific law violation. However, in Florida some courts have stated that the mere fact that rear-end collission occurred does not mean that that person is at fault for the accident or guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (the state must prove you are guilty of the citation beyond a reasonable doubt) of Careless Driving. As stated Florida case law supports this statement. The State needs to present some evidence of what exactly caused the accident to prove a person is guilty of Careless Driving otherwise the ticket should be dismissed. Also, any statements made to the police by either party after the accident regarding the accident are not admissible into evidence at any hearing or trial (this is referred to as the accident report privelege), therefore anything said by the drivers to the police at the scene cannot be used in court. Specifically, Florida Statute 316.1925 (Careless Driving) states that “Any person operating a vehicle upon the streets or highways within the state shall drive the same in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and all other attendant ciccumstances, so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. Failure to drive in such a manner shall constitute careless driving and a violation of this section.” Essentially, the police need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your driving endangered the life, limb, or property of another. Florida courts have found that the mere fact an accident occurrs is not enough to find a person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of Careless Driving. There could be any number of reasons why an accident occurred from equipment failure to a medical emergency. Therefore if someone is charged with Careless Driving it would be wise for them to speak with a lawyer about their case before they pay their ticket.