In California, Miranda rights are the warnings that police officers oftentimes give to an individual after an arrest before they begin official questioning. The main aim of the Miranda warning is to ensure that you understand your constitutional rights before answering any questions that could incriminate you. A Miranda warning states your right to remain silent. Additionally, the arresting officer must inform you of your right to have an attorney during the interrogations and that one would be provided free of charge if you cannot afford a lawyer.

If you wish to waive your Miranda rights, the officer gives you the right to do so before they begin interrogating you. The Miranda warnings apply to all criminal cases in California. If the police fail to read your Miranda rights, this does not automatically mean that charges will be dismissed. Here is why: The failure of an officer to provide the Miranda warnings only affects the case if you were under arrest when the officer interrogates you, AND you end up making an incriminating statement during the questioning, AND without that incriminating statement the prosecution would have insufficient evidence to prove their case. Therefore, if an officer questions you during the detention period (prior to arrest) they oftentimes don’t bother to give the warnings and there is no constitutional violation for officers failing to provide Miranda warnings. Sometimes officers will question an accused after an arrest, but the accused does not make any incriminating statements, in which case there is nothing to suppress. Even when an incriminating statement is suppressible due to the government’s failure to provide Miranda warnings to an arrestee before an interrogation, the prosecutor may not need that incriminating statement to prove their case. Therefore, it is rare that the failure of police to Mirandize an arrestee in a DUI case results in the total dismissal of a DUI charge. However, it can happen, so an experienced and thorough criminal defense attorney should carefully evaluate each case to determine how relevant the absence of Miranda warnings are in a particular DUI case.

If you believe your right to counsel was violated by the failure of the arresting officer to read or tell you about your Miranda rights call the Law Office of Ann Gottesman. Ann will evaluate your case and determine if a motion to suppress evidence is warranted in your case. 

What are Miranda Rights?

After an arrest for committing a crime in California, law enforcement officers may question or interrogate you on the circumstances surrounding the crime. Any information you provide the officers can (and almost certainly will!) be presented as evidence against you by the prosecution. However, you have rights that must be observed through arrest, interrogations, and prosecution. In 1966 the US Supreme Court issued its decision in Arizona v. Miranda. The purpose of the decision was to crack down on coercive interrogation tactics police were using to get confessions and admissions from those in custody.

Miranda rights are the warnings that police officers are supposed to give you when they arrest you and plan to do a formal interrogation after the arrest. These rights aid in protecting your constitutional rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendment. Under the fifth amendment, you have a right not to incriminate yourself. The Sixth Amendment protects an accused’s right to counsel. Therefore, you have two main rights: a right not to answer any questions by law enforcement officers and the right to seek legal guidance.

Many assume that police officers must read your Miranda rights in a specific order or in specific words. A typical warning in the reading of Miranda rights after a drunk driving arrest (or any arrest) includes:

  1. You have a right to remain silent. The moments following a DUI arrest can be very challenging. Therefore, it is easy to feel confused and some may try to say anything to escape the situation, oftentimes leading to the admission of incriminating facts. Therefore, it would be best to exercise your right to remain silent.
  2. Anything you say to the police officers will be used against you in court. The police officers may read your Miranda rights at the time or shortly after your arrest, just before the start of questioning. At this point, they could ask questions related to the case and your involvement. Therefore, they must notify you that the information you provide will be used as evidence in your case. Anything you mention that is incriminating will certainly be used against you in court, which is why it is always better to decline questioning!
  3. You have a right to have a lawyer present during the interrogation (questioning). You should pay attention to the right to have an attorney during your questioning. Therefore, as soon as you face an arrest, you should request to contact a DUI lawyer BEFORE answering any questions. Your attorney will usually advise you to verbally state that you are choosing to remain silent and that you want an attorney present before you will answer any questions. In practice, it is rare for an arrestee to have an attorney get to the jail before the person is released, so it is up to the accused to make clear that he or she is exercising his or her right to remain silent. You will never talk your way out of the arrest so there is no point in answering their questions. 
  4. The state will appoint an attorney if you can’t afford one if you wish. Part of the right to a lawyer is to have one appointed if you cannot afford to hire one yourself. However, a court appointed lawyer will usually not show up at the station right after your arrest. Most of the time, if you are relying on a public defender, you will not meet him or her until your first court date after charges have been filed against you, at which time you will be arraigned.

After reading your Miranda rights, the police officer will inquire whether you understood these rights before they proceed to question you. You can waive these rights by simply talking or answering their questions. Even if you believe you are innocent it is wise to remain silent and not answer the officers’ questions. You may think there is nothing incriminating about what you want to tell the police, but a seemingly innocuous statement could end up confirming a fact that could be used against you later in court!

Waiving Your Right to Remain Silent

A waiver of your Miranda rights is considered valid if a Judge determines that it was voluntarily made, and that it was knowing, intelligent and contemporaneous with the interrogation. This waiver can be express or implied. Verbally telling the officer that you are not talking and want a lawyer is an express invocation of your right, whereas telling the officer you are willing to talk without a lawyer is an express waiver. However, if you simply remain silent when being questioned, but later answer one of the questions, that will be considered an implied waiver and that answer will likely be admissible against you in court if it was incriminating. This is what happened in the case Berghus Warden v. Thomkins, a United States Supreme Court decision from 2010. 

Miranda Warnings in DUI Cases

Many things usually happen before the police actually arrest you in a DUI investigation. Miranda warnings are not technically ever necessary, whether after your arrest or during the initial investigation while you are detained. While police officers question you at the side of the road at a DUI checkpoint, you do not need to be notified of your Miranda rights because this period is usually considered a detention but not arrest. Even after you are arrested, officers rarely provide an accused with Miranda warning because they typically do not ask questions of the arrestee after the arrest. Officers on DUI detail are usually trained to ask all their questions (such as “how much did you drink” and when and where did you drink) during the initial detention period prior to the arrest.

In a DUI investigation in California, officers typically proceed with the following steps:

  1. Ask You to Stop your Vehicle

Police officers can stop your vehicle for almost any traffic violation. They can even detain you in a legally set-up sobriety checkpoint where no improper driving was seen. Sometimes a police officer will stop your vehicle if you exhibit signs of intoxication, or commit traffic infractions such as following too closely, swerving, running a red light, or speeding. Most traffic accidents will result in a DUI investigation by the police if the driver exhibits any objective signs of being impaired.

  1. Ask for Proof of Insurance and Driver’s License

When you stop your vehicle, the police officer will ask for your driver’s license and proof of auto insurance. If you do not have these documents, the police officer will continue with other steps of the DUI investigation.

Driving without a valid license or vehicle insurance is separate from drunk driving. Therefore, even when there is no evidence of drunk driving, you can still face a ticket for these offenses.

  1. Field Sobriety Test

After observing you for signs like bloodshot eyes, alcohol scent from your mouth, trouble with balance while walking, the police officers will usually request the driver perform a few field sobriety tests. The field sobriety tests are used to provide more opportunities for the investigating officer to find probable cause to arrest you. While they are not mandatory and you can decline to do the FSTs, the refusal to complete them could be used in trial as evidence of consciousness of guilt. However, your lawyer can file a motion in limine to try and keep that information out.

During the initial observations, the police officer could ask questions about your drinking conduct and whereabouts earlier in the day. However, the police officer does not need to read your Miranda rights since you are not yet under arrest in a custodial situation. However, it is still wise for anyone detained by law enforcement during an investigation to expressly invoke their right to remain silent and not to answer questions without a lawyer present. Aside from your identity, insurance and registration, and whether you will take a chemical test, you are not required to answer an officer’s questions.

Breathalyzer test

During initial DUI investigations, the PAS test is a breathalyzer test administered at the roadside. (Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test) The police officer will ask you to blow air from your lungs into the breathalyzer. The results of a breathalyzer test indicate presence of alcohol but the prosecutor will try to use the reading as evidence of the level of alcohol in your blood. It is a voluntary test unless you are under 21 or on DUI probation. It is therefore advisable to not take this test if you are not legally obliged to.

Arresting officers use the field sobriety tests and PAS as evidence of probable cause to arrest you. Even if you show no clues on the other FSTs, a reading of .08 or more on the PAS will almost always result in your arrest and the filing of DUI criminal charges. The legal BAC limits in California vary depending on the type of driver’s license, and they include the following:

  • 08% for adult drivers operating on a standard driver’s license.
  • 01% for drivers under the age of twenty-one.
  • 04% for commercial driver.

After concluding a Dui investigation, law enforcement officers can arrest you and take you to the police station if they believe they secured sufficient evidence of probable cause that you were driving impaired and/or with a .08 or higher BAC. Even after the arrest, police officers are not required to read or inform you of your Miranda rights. However, at this stage, if they do not inform you of your right to remain silent and to an attorney, any incriminating answers you make in response to a custodial interrogation will not be admissible in court.

A custodial interrogation is where the officers ask you questions that could produce incriminating answers. Although some questions could be similar to the ones asked in DUI investigations, a warning is needed before asking the questions while the driver is in custody. Otherwise, any incriminating statement made by the in-custody accused will be inadmissible in trial for almost all purposes.

Invoking your Miranda Rights

Although no special words are needed to indicate that you want to invoke your Miranda rights, remaining silent is not enough. You must make your intentions known by asking to speak with your attorney or saying that you seek to invoke the rights.

If you remain silent after the arrest without invoking your rights, it is not guaranteed that a judge won’t agree to allow the prosecutor to use your silence as evidence that you were under the influence because you were not responding in a normal manner. If you truly are silent however, there would be no statements to incriminate you with! After invoking your Miranda rights, you can choose not to say anything to the police officers until your attorney arrives.

Waiving your Miranda Rights After a DUI Arrest

After issuing the Miranda warning, the police officer will ensure that you understand each right before asking whether you wish to speak to them regarding the crime. Speaking to the police after learning your Miranda rights is viewed as waiving your rights. The officer does not need to state specific words when asking whether you wish to waive the right to remain silent.

Waiving your Miranda rights in a DUI case can be implied or expressed. An express waiver will include a statement. This could occur when you answer yes to an officer asking whether you wish to talk to them after your Miranda warning. An officer can then ask you to sign a waiver. If you decline to sign the acknowledgment, the officers can still proceed with the consent from your statement.

An implied waiver, on the other hand, is picked up from your behavior. Making a statement that the police consider voluntary and knowing can indicate that you seek to waive your Miranda rights. However, if police officers coerce you into waiving your rights, you can claim a violation of your constitutional rights. Instances of coercion include:

  • The promise of charge dismissal if you confess to drunk driving.
  • Police officers threaten to call your job or family to inform them of the charges if you fail to confess.
  • Police depriving you of necessities for failure to confess.
  • Police convincing you that you do not need a lawyer if you are innocent of the charges.

Violation of your Miranda Rights

A violation of your Miranda rights is one of the defenses you can use in your DUI criminal case if there is important inculpatory evidence that was obtained through your statement after arrest. It is highly unusual and rare for a DUI case to rest upon an incriminating statement by the accused. Yet, if you are under arrest and being interrogated by the police and incriminating statements are obtained then failing to be Mirandized could help secure a suppression of those statements. Some of the ways through which police could violate your Miranda rights include:

  • The police failed to read your Miranda rights or the warnings after arrest and prior to interrogating you, which lead to you confessing to a crime or making other incriminating statements.
  • You were coerced into waiving your Miranda rights.
  • Police officers attempting to question you after you invoke your Miranda rights.
  • Police officers questioned you after you requested an attorney.

If you believe that the law enforcement officers violated your Miranda rights, your attorney can file a motion to suppress the evidence collected by the officers. Unfortunately, a Miranda violation does not result in dismissing all evidence in your case or your charges.

The prosecution can still use the evidence collected at the initial DUI investigations in the case. If you were too drunk to remember waiving your rights, the evidence collected is still admissible in court. The statements you make are just one of the pieces of evidence that prosecutors use to try and secure a conviction in a DUI case. Common evidence that may apply even with the violation include:

  • Your BAC is obtained through breath or blood tests.
  • Evidence of traffic violations that resulted in your DUI stop.
  • Presence of alcohol and drug paraphernalia in your vehicle.
  • Performance in your sobriety test.
  • Statements by witnesses.

Violation of Miranda Rights and DUI Plea Deals

A plea deal is an agreed-upon settlement between a prosecutor and the defense lawyer. The plea bargain allows you to face charges for a lesser offense and know your sentence before pleading guilty. Drunk driving is a serious offense, and any chance at a reduced charge could benefit you.

However, prosecutors do not enter plea deals with all defendants facing DUI charges. In most cases, the prosecution will agree to reduce your charges when their case is weak, or in some instances, when there are serious mitigating circumstances. You can negotiate a plea deal when you prove that your Miranda rights were violated and the court throws some of the evidence presented against you. Common plea bargains for DUIs in California include:

Wet Reckless

The most common plea deal offered by prosecutors in your DUI case is a Wet reckless under VC section 23103 pursuant to VC 23103.5. With this agreement, you plead guilty to reckless driving. However, there is still a notation of alcohol use at the time of the offense. Whether or not ‘wet reckless’ is a favorable plea dependent on the circumstances of your case. Both DUI and ‘wet reckless’ are priorable offenses. Therefore, if you have a prior conviction, your sentence increases with or without the plea deal.

Some of the benefits that you accrue from negotiating a wet reckless plea include:

  • No mandatory court-ordered suspension. While the court may not order a license suspension, the DMV can still suspend the license after your arrest. This is an administrative per se suspension that is separate from the Court case. If you had an APS hearing and lost, then the suspension is 4 months for a first time DUI. If the DMV suspends your license and you are then convicted of a ‘wet reckless’, you will only have the APS suspension and no further suspension resulting from the court conviction.
  • A shorter jail sentence. The maximum jail sentence for a wet reckless conviction is lower than the six months you could spend in jail for a first DUI conviction. It is a 90 day maximum sentence for a wet reckless conviction.
  • Shorter probation. Probation for ‘wet reckless’ lasts is only one year. If you face a DUI conviction, you could spend up to five years on probation. Shorter probation is beneficial when you want to expunge your conviction.
  • Less impact on your professional licenses. A wet reckless’ oftentimes carries less weight than a DUI when your professional licensing body learns of your conviction.
  • Lower fines. When you face a DUI conviction, your court fines and assessment fees could total $3,000. The maximum fine for a wet reckless conviction is $1,000.

Although a violation of your Miranda rights may be able to secure you a wet reckless plea deal, the reduced charges will still count as DUI for your auto insurers. Additionally, ‘wet reckless’ will be treated as a prior in subsequent DUI cases.

Dry Reckless

Another plea deal you can secure when the prosecutor’s evidence against you is inadmissible is dry reckless. Unlike wet reckless, there is no notation of alcohol use when you are convicted of dry reckless. Mostly, the prosecution will allow this plea when most of their evidence on your drunk driving is inadmissible, and the possibility of a case dismissal is high. Sometimes if the BAC is low and there are serious collateral consequence for the defendant, a nice prosecutor will agree to a dry reckless of exhibition of speed conviction.

Some of the reasons why dry reckless is a better plea deal than a DUI include:

  • There is no requirement to install an IID.
  • Dry reckless is not a priorable offense.
  • No mandatory driver’s license suspension.
  • Less impact on your vehicle insurance.

Frequently Asked Questions on Miranda Rights in California DUI Cases

Knowing your rights after a DUI arrest is crucial to fighting your criminal charges and avoiding a conviction. The following are some frequently asked questions about Miranda rights in DUI cases:

  1. Must a police officer read my rights at the exact time of the arrest?

Your Miranda rights have nothing to do with the actual arrest. The main aim of being notified about these rights is to protect you from self-incrimination in the statements you give or answers to your questions. Therefore, failure to read the rights during the arrest is not a violation of your Miranda rights. If police officers do not interrogate you, the Miranda warning is unnecessary. Additionally, if an officer has not arrested you officially, they can ask any questions without a need for a warning.

  1. Does a violation of Miranda rights invalidate all the evidence in my case?

NO. When you assert a violation of your Miranda rights as a defense to your DUI criminal case, the court will only invalidate the statements you made before reading the rights. Any other information relevant to the case can still be presented and used to secure a conviction in the case.

Police officers do not have to read your rights immediately after the DUI stop or while administering sobriety and Breathalyzer tests. Therefore, even when your statements after the arrest are thrown out, evidence of bad driving, conduct after the stop, and the results of your breathalyzer test are still admissible.

  1. What is your right to remain silent?

A right to remain silent applies even before an officer reads your Miranda rights. You can legally remain silent at all times. When the police officer attempts to ask you any questions, you can politely decline to answer and ensure they understand your decision. Remaining silent helps you avoid making conflicting or incriminating statements.

  1. What questions do I have to answer from the police at my DUI stop?

Aside from providing your drivers license, registration and insurance, you are not obligated to answer further questions. Police officers might attempt to ask about where you have been and the number of drinks you have consumed before operating the vehicle. You must understand that the answers to these questions could be used against you in your case. This is because a Miranda warning is unnecessary at this point since these questions are usually asked during the detention before the arrest.

While you do not have to say anything, you must cooperate with the officers and provide the documentation needed at the stop. Additionally, Implied consent is applicable at this stage. An implied consent states that you must provide your blood and breath samples if you are arrested. It is NOT recommended that you do field sobriety tests or preliminary breath tests on the street since these are not required and are only used against you!

  1. Should I answer questions about taking prescription medications at the DUI checkpoint?

Intoxication can result from illegal substances or prescription medication. Admitting that you are on prescription medication could incriminate you. However, the officers could order a blood test and use a drug recognition expert to determine the concentration of drugs and if they impaired you.

  1. Can police officers use a video taken before my Miranda rights in the DUI case?

At DUI stops, police officers use video from the dash cam of their vehicles or body cams. The video evidence shows some of the most critical evidence in your case, including your conduct at the stop and the results of your sobriety tests. If you claim that police violated your rights or something wasn’t done right, the court and your attorney can rely on these videos to provide accurate information about the occurrences.

Find a Skilled DUI Lawyer Near Me: Call Ann Gottesman!

When you face an arrest for drunk driving in California, the police officers inform you of your right to remain silent and right to legal representation before making formal interrogations about the crime. Commonly known as Miranda rights, the right to silence protects you against self-incrimination. Many misconceptions surround Miranda rights in DUI cases. They are unnecessary unless you are taken into custody, interrogated and incriminating responses are elicited.

Therefore, when law enforcement officers administer sobriety and breathalyzer tests at a DUI checkpoint, they are not obligated to read your rights. If you undergo formal interrogation before being informed of your Miranda rights, the evidence collected in the interrogation may be inadmissible in your case. Challenging your DUI case using constitutional violations are heavily fact dependent. Therefore, the guidance of a skilled attorney is key. At The Law Office of Ann Gottesman, Ann will help protect your rights and build a solid defense against your DUI charges in Pasadena, CA and the surrounding areas. Contact Ann at 626-710-4021.