In a DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) case in Florida, the state must prove that the defendant was driving the vehicle or at least in actual, physical control of the vehicle while impaired. In most cases, this is easy as most DUI cases start when the police officer pulls the driver over for a traffic infraction. In accident cases, it can be more difficult for the state even when it seems obvious the defendant was driving. For instance, when a police officer responds to the scene of an accident, he/she usually has no evidence to suggest alcohol or drugs were involved. The police officer will initiate a traffic crash investigation and get a statement from the presumed driver. During the traffic crash investigation, nothing the driver says about driving or impairment or anything else incriminating can be used against the driver if the police officer ultimately arrests the driver for DUI or another crime. This is called the accident report privilege.
Additionally, if the police officer responds to an accident and the driver is already out of the vehicle, the state may not be able to prove the driver was in fact driving while impaired from alcohol or drugs. In a recent DUI case near Jacksonville, Florida, the police officer responded to a one vehicle crash, and there were four people standing around the vehicle. Ultimately, the driver admitted he was driving, but none of the other people confirmed it and there was no other evidence to establish that he was driving. The police officer arrested him for DUI, but the case was thrown out.
In criminal cases in Florida, a person’s confession alone is not sufficient to convict a person of a crime. In this case, the only evidence the state had that the defendant was driving was his own admission. Without any other independent evidence to corroborate that statement, the statement was not admissible to establish the defendant was driving. As a result, there was insufficient admissible evidence to prove the DUI, and the case was dropped.