FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Circuit Court for the
Tenth Judicial Circuit for Polk County; sitting in its
Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Elba
Martin-Schomaker, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa; and
Brian W. Haas, State Attorney, Tenth Judicial Circuit of
Florida, and Victoria J. Avalon, Assistant State Attorney,
Bartow, for Petitioner.
Averbuck of Highland City, for Respondent.
Allen Jones has been charged in the county court with driving
on a suspended license. Relying on Florida's statutory
accident-report privilege, section 316.066(4), Fla. Stat.
(2017), the county court suppressed statements of identity
Mr. Jones made to police at the scene of an accident. The
State took an appeal to the circuit court, which affirmed the
county court's order. The State now seeks review in this
court by way of second-tier certiorari of the circuit
court's affirmance. Although the rationale underlying the
circuit court's decision is not entirely clear, under any
interpretation of its reasoning its affirmance departed from
the essential requirements of law and results in a
miscarriage of justice. We therefore grant the State's
helpful to know a little statutory background before diving
into the specifics of this case. Sections 316.062 and .066
impose a duty upon a driver involved in an automobile
accident involving damage to another vehicle to provide,
among other things, information that identifies the driver
for use in preparing a crash investigation report. See
also State v. Marshall, 695 So.2d 719, 721 (Fla. 3d DCA
1996). The legal question in this case arose because the
State wants to use a driver's statement of his identity
made pursuant to this statutory duty to give information
relevant to an accident in an otherwise unrelated criminal
prosecution of the driver, who appears to have had no valid
driver's license when the accident happened. The answer
derives in part from section 316.066(4), which creates the
accident-report privilege. It provides, in relevant part, as
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. Such
report or statement may not 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.
§ 316.066(4) (emphasis added). Under the statutory
privilege, then, statements made by a person involved in a
crash for purposes of completing a crash investigation report
are generally inadmissible in any trial, subject to a
specific exception that law enforcement officers can testify
about such statements in criminal cases if doing so does not
violate the person's privilege against
self-incrimination. See also Vedner v.
State, 849 So.2d 1207, 1213 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003).
case, there was a multivehicle accident during which a car
Mr. Jones was driving was rear-ended. A deputy arrived at the
scene and began a crash investigation. He did not administer
Miranda warnings. He asked Mr. Jones for his
license. Mr. Jones said he did not have one. The deputy then
asked for his name, date of birth, and social security
number. Mr. Jones complied.
deputy used that identifying information to check on the
Driver and Vehicle Information Database (DAVID) maintained by
the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
He learned that Mr. Jones's license had been revoked. He
asked Mr. Jones whether he knew that his license was revoked,
and Mr. Jones responded affirmatively. Mr. Jones was arrested
and, after further questioning not relevant here, charged
with driving on a suspended license. The case proceeded in
the county court for Polk County.
Jones moved to suppress his statements of identity arguing,
among other things, that their admission would violate his
privilege against self-incrimination under the Fifth
Amendment to the United States Constitution and the
accident-report privilege under section
316.066(4). The State opposed the motion, arguing that
under the Supreme Court's decision in California v.
Byers, 402 U.S. 424 (1971), statements of identification
made pursuant to a statutory duty to provide such information
after an automobile accident are not subject to the privilege
against self-incrimination. It also argued that the statutory
accident-report privilege did not apply because section
316.066(4) authorizes law enforcement officers to testify to
any statement during a crash investigation so long as the
privilege against self-incrimination is not violated.
hearing on the motion, Mr. Jones agreed with the State that
under Byers, the Fifth Amendment did not require
suppression of his statements of identity, telling the county
court that "it's quite true that there's no
Fifth Amendment right to remain silent at a traffic crash
investigation." He clarified that he was not basing Mr.
Jones's argument on the Constitution but rather on the
statutory accident-report privilege, asserting that the
statute protects the constitutional privilege against
self-incrimination in crash investigations by prohibiting
statements made during such investigations in court. He
argued (1) that under the accident-report privilege, when a
law enforcement officer "switches hats" from
conducting an accident investigation to conducting a criminal
investigation, the driver must be Mirandized and (2) that the
statute contains no exception for statements of identity.
county court suppressed the statements. It expressly found
that "atno time did [the deputy]
'change hats' and begin to conduct a criminal
investigation." (Emphasis added.) But it ...