DUI Defense And Your Miranda Rights

In many types of criminal cases, a suspect is questioned by police at the station or sometimes while sitting in a police vehicle after arrest.  If a person is in police custody, and while in custody, an officer interrogates that person by asking him or her questions that are likely to illicit an incriminating response, then Miranda requires the officer to first advise the suspect that he or she has a right to remain silent, to speak to an attorney free of charge and that anything he or she says will be used against him or her in court.  If a suspect is not informed of these rights, then any testimonial evidence obtained during the questioning will be suppressed by the court, and in some cases, this will result in the dismissal of criminal charges, but not commonly.  The “Miranda rights” comes from the landmark 1966 United States Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona. The Court found that an accused has a Fifth and Sixth Amendment right to be advised of his/her “Miranda rights” while in custody prior to making statements in response to an officer’s interrogation.

However, with DUI cases, Miranda doesn’t always play a role.  This is because, an officer has no obligation to advise you of your Miranda rights if you are not formally “in custody,” and most of the time in DUI cases, the driver answers officers’ questions prior to being placed in custody.  In fact, there is no law that requires an officer to Mirandize a suspect even when the person is in custody!  The Miranda rule simply says that an incriminating statement made by a person in custody during interrogation cannot be used against him/her in court unless the officer first admonished the accused per Miranda.

If no incriminating statements were made, or if the prosecutor does not need to use those statements to prove their case, them the failure of an officer to read a suspect their Miranda rights, even when they should have, will not result in the dismissal of charges. 

In most DUI cases, an officer initially contacts a driver or suspect and questions them prior to their arrest or placement in custody.  Courts have found that if an officer pulls you over, talks to you through your car window, or on the side of the road after ordering you out of the vehicle, you are engaging in voluntary communication and you are not considered to be in custody unless there are facts suggesting a reasonable person would assume they are not free to leave and are under arrest: i.e, you are in handcuffs, there are numerous officers and a gun is pointed at you, you are in the officer’s vehicle on the way to the station, or you are at the station and not free to leave.    

In drunk driving cases, even if an police officer questions you while you are in custody and you were never advised of your Miranda rights, it is rare for such a scenario to result in the dismissal of the criminal case.  This is because the remedy for a violation of Miranda is just the suppression of the statement that was made by the defendant while in custody before being Mirandized.  Therefore, evidence such as DUI blood tests, breath test results, field sobriety tests and the officer’s observations will not be suppressed even if there was a Miranda violation. 

However, if the officer had no evidence of who the driver was and that information came out only during questioning while the suspect was in custody and the officer failed to advise him of his Miranda rights, such a scenario could result in the dismissal of the entire DUI case because the prosecutor would not be able to prove the element of driving.  Suppressing the evidence in this factual scenario would mean the difference between a DUI conviction and a dismissal of the DUI charges.  It is important to have a knowledgeable and dedicated DUI defense attorney handling your case to ensure every potential legal issue is investigated. 

If you are facing criminal charges, call DUI and Criminal Defense lawyer Ann Gottesman for a FREE consultation today!