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DUI and the Accident Report Privilege

In the case of Kenneth Wetherington versus the State of Florida, Mr. Wetherington was charged with committing the crime of felony DUI based upon his involvement in a single-car accident.  At Wetherington’s trial, a police officer testified that he spoke with Wetherington while investigating the accident and that Wetherington admitted he was driving the car when it crashed.

The jury in Wetherington’s case convicted him of DUI so he appealed.  Wetherington argued to the court of appeals that the officer should not have been allowed to testify that Wetherington admitted he was driving the car at the time of the accident because the officer’s doing so violated Florida’s accident report privilege.  According to that particular law, statements made to a police officer by a person who is involved in a crash should not be used against that person at his trial.  The reason behind that law is that it is unfair to require someone to give information to a police officer and then use that same information against him at his trial.

The court of appeals agreed with Wetherington, reversed his conviction, and ordered a new trial because the only direct evidence that Wetherington was the driver of the car that crashed was the statement he gave to the officer during the accident investigation.