If you received a traffic citation as a result of a single car crash, seriously consider contesting the ticket. The burden of proof in a civil traffic case rests with the citing agency to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. That burden is the same as in a criminal case. The burden applies to all elements of the offense. The elements include identity of the driver.
Typically, when an accident occurs, the driver or a concerned citizen will contact law enforcement for help. When the officer arrives, in addition to helping, the officer may give the driver a ticket. The officer didn’t see who was driving when the accident occurred.
Should the driver fight the ticket, the officer must come to Court and prove to the Judge or Hearing Officer that the person cited was the person driving. To do this, the officer may need a witness. If there is no witness, the officer may try to introduce the driver’s statements as an admission. Having skilled legal representation is critical. The proper response from the driver’s legal representative is to object to that admission based on privilege. Florida has a law that protects a driver involved in an accident from having his statements used against him. The public policy behind this privilege is to encourage honesty in reporting to help improve the roads and traffic patterns. The privilege does not apply if the driver is asked in Court if he was driving. Hiring a lawyer is an important strategic maneuver. A lawyer may appear on behalf of the driver. Without the driver being present, there is nobody to ask.
Because he did not observe the driver when the crash occurred, cannot use the driver’s statements, and if there are no witnesses, the officer will be unable to prove the identity of the driver.
Experienced officers may ask the driver to waive the privilege before they issue the citation. Do not waive the privilege. If you do, you are making it easier for the officer to prove his case.
If you have been involved in a car accident, whether a single car crash or an accident involving someone else, please do not hesitate to contact my office for information or representation. Click here to learn more about Attorney William Falik.