Is Defendant's Refusal to Submit to a DUI Soberity Test Relevent to Show Consciousness of Guilt ?
In State v. Taylor, 648 So. 2d 701 (Fla. 1995), the Court addressed a situation similar to South Dakota v. Neville, 459 U.S. 553, 74 L. Ed. 2d 748, 103 S. Ct. 916 (1983), regarding whether admitting a defendant's refusal to submit to a DUI sobriety test constitutes compulsory self-incrimination, whether the Due Process Clause is violated by the introduction of such evidence, and whether the defendant's refusal was probative of consciousness of guilt from an evidentiary standpoint. See Taylor, 648 So. 2d at 702.
In this Court, Taylor argued "that admission of the refusal would violate his constitutional rights and that his refusal is not probative of guilt." Id. at 703.
The court first determined that the use of refusal evidence did not violate the defendant's federal or Florida constitutional rights, and then turned to the defendant's claim that refusal was inadmissible under the Florida Evidence Code. See id.
The court rejected this argument, reasoning that the defendant had ample incentive to take the tests: he knew the circumstances surrounding the request, he knew the purpose of the test, and he knew there were possible adverse consequences attached to refusal. See id.
Taylor initiated the conversation about sobriety testing and indicated that he had previously discussed the advisability of taking such tests with his attorney.
The court also noted that Taylor "had some experience in this area," because of two previous DUI convictions. Id. at 704.
Finally, the officer had read the defendant Florida's implied consent law and warned him that his refusal would have adverse consequences.
Under these circumstances, ` concluded that:
Given the strong incentives to take the tests, [the defendant's] claim that his refusal was an innocent act loses plausibility.
In short, he knew refusal was not a "safe harbor" free of adverse consequences and acted in spite of that knowledge.
His refusal thus is relevant to show consciousness of guilt.
If he has an innocent explanation for not taking the tests, he is free to offer that explanation in court.