People make many assumptions regarding what is commonly referred to as one’s “Miranda rights.” Although some of these assumptions are correct, others aren’t and can lead to problems during an arrest.
For example, many people assume that if an officer fails to read them their rights, their DUI case will be thrown out, but this isn’t necessarily true.
If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, a Pennsylvania DUI attorney with Kellis Law Firm is ready to help you. While we’ll never make any promises, we can guarantee that we’ll fight on your behalf to get your penalties reduced or to have your charges dismissed if possible. Give us a call at (215) 977-4183 or contact us online for a free consultation.
The following information will clear up some of the more common misconceptions surrounding this important legal principle.
The purpose of Miranda warning or rights
A citizen’s rights to protection against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution are often called “Miranda rights” or “Miranda warnings” due to the founding case Miranda vs. Arizona.
Although the Court didn’t rule on the exact wording of the rights that an officer must read or recite to a person who is placed in police custody, the Court did issue a ruling that an officer must inform them that they have the privilege of protecting themselves from self-incrimination.
In order to enact that right, the officer must clearly inform the person of the following:
- They have the right to remain silent.
- Anything they say may be used against them in court.
- They have a right to consult an attorney before and during interrogation, and if they cannot afford an attorney then one will be appointed for them.
- They can ask for the interrogation to stop at any time and the officer must comply.
- At any time they want to speak to their attorney and the attorney isn’t present, the interrogation must stop until the attorney is present.
Something to note is that simply remaining silent will not automatically stop the police from questioning a person who’s in custody. They must expressly state that they are invoking their right to remain silent or that they are invoking their right for an attorney to be present during questioning.
When Miranda rights are required and when they’re not required
Two conditions must be met before the police must read a person their Miranda rights.
- The person is under arrest and has been placed in police custody.
- The police are conducting a “custodial interrogation” which means that the arrestee is not free to leave and that they must be questioned by the police.
Here are some examples to better understand when Miranda rights are and aren’t required:
- (Not required): A person is placed into police custody, meaning they are not free to leave, and they confess to a crime without being questioned. Their confession cannot be challenged under the Fifth Amendment because the police weren’t asking questions–it was a confession that occurred outside of an interrogation or questioning.
- (Not required): If someone is brought to a police station or voluntarily goes to a police station for questioning and voluntarily submits to questioning, there’s no Miranda requirement and their confession may be admissible evidence.
- (Required): A person is arrested on suspicion of committing an armed burglary. They are taken into police custody, placed in an interrogation room, and informed that they are going to be asked questions about the alleged crime. They must be read their Miranda rights.
How Miranda rights are applied in DUI cases
In DUI cases, police aren’t required to read the driver their Miranda rights while they’re still in the process of their investigation. This means that in a DUI case, an officer can:
- Pull someone over for probable cause
- Can ask the driver questions such as if they know the reason they were pulled over, if they’ve been drinking, etc.
- Can perform field sobriety tests including asking them to submit to a breath or other chemical test
- Detain them (which is often done for everyone’s safety) while conducting other parts of their investigation such as a proper car search where one is warranted
- Can arrest the driver for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- The officer may choose to issue the Miranda warning at this time, or they–
- Can transport the driver to the police station, hospital, or jail
- Can read them their Miranda rights before conducting their custodial investigation.
Many people being charged with a DUI assume that their charges will automatically be thrown out if the officer failed to read them their Miranda rights when they were detained or even right after they were arrested, but that’s not necessarily the case.
The police and the prosecution might have other evidence that can be used against you such as breath or blood test results, performance during a field sobriety test, video footage that shows your behavior, and possible witness statements.
If any of the following occur, it could indicate your Miranda rights were violated.
- You invoked your right to remain silent, but the officer continued asking questions anyway.
- The officer tried to intimidate or threaten you into revoking your Miranda rights.
- The offer continued to ask questions even though you requested an attorney.
What happens when Miranda rights aren’t read in a DUI arrest
Although an officer’s failure to read your Miranda rights might not mean your charges will be automatically dismissed, that doesn’t mean that this error won’t be important in your defense.
This might allow your attorney to suppress evidence in court because your Fifth Amendment rights were violated. Suppression won’t guarantee a specific outcome in your case, however, it will make it much harder for the prosecution to win theirs.
There are other potential defenses to a DUI charge that your attorney might employ, such as:
- Challenging field sobriety tests
- Identifying a break in the chain of custody of evidence
- Identifying failure to properly calibrate the breath test machine
- Having a medical condition that caused you to perform poorly during your field sobriety tests or which caused a false positive blood or breath test result
Your attorney will determine which defenses will be the most effective in your case based on your unique facts and circumstances.
Knowing when you’re being interrogated
The purpose of a custodial interrogation is to phrase questions in a certain way, or to present them in a fast-paced or confusing manner, to get someone to confess or admit guilt. Police might make it difficult for you to tell if you’re being asked questions during the “investigation” phase or if they’re conducting a custodial interrogation.
If you have any doubt or if you’re confused, you can ask the officer if you’re being interrogated–there’s a good chance that there’s a camera recording the conversation either through the officer’s body camera, the camera in their car, or a camera inside a room at the police station. If you’re still unsure, you can ask for an attorney and can invoke your right to remain silent until your attorney arrives.
If you’ve been arrested, it’s likely that they’re conducting their interrogation and you should expressly invoke your right to remain silent and you should ask for an attorney.