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In Florida, Statements Made to a Police Officer Investigating an Auto Accident Are Not Generally Admissible in Court

In Florida, we have a law commonly known as the accident report privilege.  In all crashes that involve an injury or significant property damage, the police officer responding to the crash must prepare a crash report that documents information about the crash and the people involved.  When a person is involved in an auto accident in Florida, that person must remain at the scene and provide certain information to the responding officer.  One can see how a duty to remain at the scene of the crash and provide information to the police might conflict with a person’s right to remain silent if there might be criminal implications to the crash.  Some crashes obviously involve criminal activity, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, hit and run and/or driving with a suspended license.  People have a right to remain silent rather than make incriminating statements to the police.

In order to reconcile this conflict, the Florida accident report privilege provides that the state cannot use in court as evidence a person’s statement made to the police for the purpose of completing the crash report.  In other words, if a driver makes an incriminating statement to the police officer while he/she is conducting a crash investigation, the state cannot call the police officer to repeat that statement in court in the state’s case.

However, there are exceptions.  First, the state might be able to use a statement made by the driver for the purpose of completing the crash report as impeachment.  If at trial the defendant waives his/her right to remain silent and testifies in court about the crash, the state or the opposing party may use the statement made to the police at the time of the crash against the driver if it is inconsistent with what the driver is saying in court.  Another exception to the Florida accident report privilege exists where the driver does not follow the law after the crash.  For instance, if the driver is involved in a crash and the flees the scene, he/she loses the benefit of the accident report privilege.  Florida cases have ruled that where a driver is involved in an accident that results in a death and then leaves the scene of the crash (which is a serious felony crime in Florida), the driver loses the benefit of the accident report privilege if he/she gives a statement to the police once they locate the driver.