Fort Lauderdale Accident-Reporting Privilege Attorneys
Traffic accidents are unique from other types of incidents, particularly when the police officer that visits the scene suspects that one of the drivers involved is impaired. The officer must conduct a civil investigation to determine how the crash occurred, but they may also want to conduct a criminal investigation if they suspect a crime has been committed. The statements made during these investigations are very important, and it is just as critical when those statements are made. If you made statements at the scene of a crash and they are now being used against you, our Fort Lauderdale accident-reporting privilege attorney can help.
What is the Accident-Reporting Privilege in Fort Lauderdale?
Under Florida law, any driver involved in an accident must:
- Provide their name, address, and registration information for the vehicle they were driving at the time,
- Show their driver’s license to any person that is injured during an accident, or that has property damaged as a result of the crash,
- Provide the same information to any police officer that investigates the scene of the accident, and
- Render reasonable assistance to anyone that was hurt during an accident
The above requirements must be met any time an accident results in injury or death to another person, or that involves property damage to any vehicle. The problem with the above requirements is that in some cases, they may infringe on a person’s Fifth Amendment rights. For example, the officer may ask a driver if they had been drinking, forcing the individual to incriminate themselves. This is why Florida law recognizes the accident-reporting privilege. Under this rule, any statements made during a civil investigation cannot be used against a suspect during a criminal trial.
Requirements of the Accident-Reporting Privilege
Of course, society depends on law enforcement to remove drunk drivers from the road in order to keep everyone safe. It may seem at first that the accident-reporting privilege makes this much more difficult. However, if police follow specific rules, they can still obtain statements from suspected drunk drivers during a criminal investigation.
While a civil investigation and criminal investigation may occur at the same scene, they cannot occur at the same time. The officer must first conduct the civil investigation to determine which party was at fault, and whether issuing a traffic citation is necessary. After the investigation into the accident is completed, the officer can then start the criminal investigation, but they must tell all parties involved they are doing so. This is often referred to as “switching hats.”
Once an officer has notified all parties that they have “switched hats,” any statements made at the scene are generally admissible in court. This is particularly true when the officer has read the Miranda warning.
Our Fort Lauderdale Accident-Reporting Privilege Attorney Can Advise You of Your Legal Options
If you were arrested at the scene of a crash and feel as though your rights have been violated, our Fort Lauderdale accident-reporting privilege attorney at Meldon Law can assist with your case. Call us today at 800-373-8000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.