Sunday, March 28, 2010

Refusal To Submit To Breathalyzer Properly Admitted

In two consolidated cases, Kurecka v. State & State v. Power (4D08-2154 & 4D08-3221), the Fourth District held a DUI defendants refusal to submit to a breathalyzer was properly admitted into evidence even though the defendants mistakenly believed they were entitlted to counsel prior to making the decision.  The court stated:
Our research has not yielded any clear indication that the confusion doctrine is a recognized exclusionary rule or defense to a license suspension in Florida. And though we might agree that the confusion doctrine could properly be applied in circumstances where law enforcement created a defendant’s confusion about the right to counsel for breath testing, the cases before us do not present those circumstances. Here, the undisputed facts show that the defendants’ confusion was not officer-induced. The arresting officers did not advise the defendants of their Miranda rights before or during their reading of the implied consent law.
As discussed above, our implied consent statute does not obligate a police officer to advise an accused that the right to counsel does not apply to the breath test setting. However, we see no harm in placing a minimal burden on officers to briefly explain this to suspects who request counsel when asked to submit to a breath test. Such an explanation would clear up a suspect’s confusion and ensure that refusals admitted into evidence at trial are, in fact, knowing and voluntary refusals that show “consciousness of guilt.” We believe that responsible police practice “should lead professional, courteous officers to advise insistent defendants that the right to counsel does not apply to chemical tests. Where a driver repeatedly asks to speak with an attorney, it would be courteous and simple for the officer to correct the accused’s mistaken assumptions.” Reitter, 595 N.W.2d at 655.
Of course, we cannot impose duties beyond those created by the  legislature. The implied consent statute was enacted to assist in the prosecution of drunk drivers. Determining whether informing a suspect that he does not have the right to a n attorney for breath testing purposes—as part of the implied consent warning—supports or frustrates the goal of gathering evidence for these cases is a matter for the legislature to decide.


Victoria said...

Is it customary in your experience for a police officer to mirandize a DUI suspect before asking suspect to submit to SFST's and requesting suspect to take the breathalyzer?

Post a Comment