Wednesday, December 28, 2011

DUI Law - Use of Video Doesnt Violate Confrontation Says Florida

In State of Florida v. Holland, --- So.3d ----, 2011 WL 6183512 (Fla.App. 4 Dist.) the defendant was stopped and eventually arrested for DUI. After the initial stop, BSO Deputy Grady was called to the scene to perform field sobriety exercises on Holland. He requested Holland undergo a breath test. The interaction between Grady and Holland was recorded by video camera. In particular, the videotape showed Holland's refusal to submit to breath testing, the field sobriety exercises administered by Grady, and the conversations between Grady and Holland during the course of the investigation.

Before Holland's trial, the State announced that it did not intend to call Grady as a witness, prompting Holland to move to suppress all of Grady's involvement in the investigation. This included the entire contents of the videotape. Holland argued that the State's decision not to call Grady would violate the Confrontation Clause under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution,FN1 citing to Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004). The trial court agreed and suppressed the video.

On appeal, the court reversed. It found that the defendant's refusal to submit to sobriety cases was admissible, citing to a variety of cases as such:

"First, Holland's refusal to submit to sobriety testing is admissible. This issue has been resolved by the Legislature's enactment of the implied consent law under section 316.1932(1)(a) 1.a ., Florida Statutes (2010). Section 316.1932(1)(a) 1.a. provides in pertinent part that “[t]he refusal to submit to a chemical or physical breath test upon the request of a law enforcement officer as provided in this section is admissible into evidence in any criminal proceeding.” § 316.1932(1)(a) 1.a., Fla. Stat. (2010); see also State v. Kline, 764 So.2d 716, 717 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000) (holding that implied consent law requires admission of a defendant's refusal to submit to a breath or urine test). We look no further than the legislative directive to conclude that the segment of the videotape showing Holland's refusal is admissible under section 316.1932(1)(a) 1.a. Furthermore, Holland's statements on the videotape constitute admissions of a party opponent. See § 90.803(18)(a), Fla. Stat. (2010) (providing an exception to the hearsay rule when a statement is offered against a party and is “[t]he party's own statement in either an individual or a representative capacity.”). Therefore, under section 90.803(18)(a), the statements are admissible. See Dias v. State, 890 So.2d 1254, 1255 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005); cf. United States v. Valdes, 214 F. App'x 948, 950 (11th Cir.2007) (“Statements made by [the defendant] in tape-recorded conversations [with an informant], when presented by the Government, were not hearsay because they were admissions of a party opponent.”).

How the above statutes and caselaw relating to the admissibility of a refusal to submit to a post-arrest breath blood or urine test authorizes the admissibility of evidence of a refusal to submit to pre-arrest field sobriety testing is beyond this author's comprehension. In regards to the remaining portions of the videotape, the court wrote:

"We hold that Grady's statements on the videotape were non-hearsay verbal acts. A verbal act is defined as “an utterance of an operative fact that gives rise to legal consequences.” Banks v. State, 790 So.2d 1094, 1097 (Fla.2001). Verbal acts are not hearsay because they are admitted to show they were actually made and not to prove the truth of what was asserted therein. Id. at 1097–98.

Here, Grady's directives on the videotape during the sobriety exercises, both verbal and non-verbal, are not hearsay because they were not offered for the truth of the matter asserted. Instead, they were offered to give meaning to Holland's otherwise ambiguous acts. See Longval v. State, 914 So.2d 1098, 1102 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005) (noting that witness testimony describing the conversation on a surveillance video in evidence was admissible over hearsay objection because it described and gave significance to the ambiguous conduct on the videotape); see also Stotler v. State, 834 So.2d 940, 944 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003) (holding that words that explain or give meaning to otherwise ambiguous acts are not hearsay). The State is correct that Holland's reactions on the videotape would be meaningless without having the benefit of Grady's statements prompting Holland's reactions."

The court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court to determine whether the videotape was properly authenticated through the testimony of the deputy who conducted the initial traffic stop.

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