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What is a wheel witness in Florida?

A "wheel witness" is an essential witness in a case against a person for various criminal driving charges. As part of all driving charges, the prosecutor must prove that the individual accused was, in fact, driving. As silly as it sounds, not having someone that can testify that the accused was driving may mean the difference between a conviction and a case being dropped.

While the vast majority of scenarios involve an officer stopping someone in the act of driving, there are scenarios that occur where the officer arrives after an individual is out of his car. One of the most poignant examples is leaving the scene of an accident or DUI with property damage. It is often the case that an officer will arrive on the scene of a crash and nobody will be in the car(s) involved or one vehicle has left. If the crash involves two or more vehicles, then the drivers or passengers of the vehicles that remained at the scene may be able to act as a wheel witness and identify a particular individual as the driver of the vehicle that left or the driver at the time of the crash.

Even if a person admits to driving, a prosecutor cannot use the admission of that person against him unless the prosecutor can show he was driving first! This is known as the corpus delicti rule which holds that a person's admissions cannot be used against him until substantial evidence has been shown that a crime was committed. In driving cases, driving is an essential element and must be proven before any admissions come in.

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