Updated: Mar 29, 2020
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you”.
Everyone is familiar with the above statement. This statement is a “Miranda warning” or what many people refer to as being read your rights. A Miranda warning is a requirement for a police officer once they have made an arrest. It is important to our firm that our community understands when they should have been read their rights, and more importantly, that the 5th Amendment gives you the right to remain silent whenever you’re interacting with police.
Traditionally, a police officer is not required to read you your rights during a traffic stop. When you’re pulled over, police officers conduct a brief investigation and you are usually free to leave with a traffic citation or warning. However, in a DUI investigation, after the officer conducts his investigation (questioning and Field Sobriety test), in our experience the individual is arrested. Most times, our clients tell us that the officer never read them their rights. The truth is - THEY DO NOT HAVE TO. Questions such as “where are you coming from tonight?” or “how many drinks have you had?” are asked to determine if the officer believes they should ask you to do a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer. Once this is done, the officer has gathered all the evidence he or she may feel like they need to make an arrest.
This is where Miranda comes in. A police officer is only required to read you your rights after you are in custody and the officer wants to question you further. Once you’re in custody, any other questions the officer asks should be only for the purpose of identifying you. By law, you are in police custody once you are being held and you don’t feel you are free to leave. At this point, any questions an officer asks you is what the law defines as “Custodial Interrogation”.
Courts have distinguished a DUI investigation from a custodial interrogation and have consistently decided that officers can investigate whether or not an arrest should be made without reading you your rights. However, there are arguments to be made. For example:
Scenario #1: You get into a fender bender. The police are called to the scene. You are placed in handcuffs immediately after the officer arrives on the scene. You are surrounded by multiple officers who begin to aggressively question you about the facts surrounding the accident. You are being questioned continuously about your consumption of alcohol or drugs, but at no point are you told you are under arrest.
There are some clear arguments to be made regarding whether you reasonably felt you were under arrest and if you felt like you had to respond to the officer’s questions. Here would be a great opportunity for your lawyer to make an argument that you weren’t read your rights if you made incriminating statements on the scene.
Scenario #2: You get into a fender bender. The police are called to the scene. You become resistant and angry when the police arrive. As a precaution, the officer who arrives places you in handcuffs for his safety. You begin to make a ton of spontaneous incriminating statements without being asked any questions.
In our view, both scenarios trigger a “Miranda” argument. However, scenario #2 is a far weaker argument, because there are significant hurdles regarding if the court would view this scenario as an interrogation. However, the D.C. Court of Appeals has ruled that there has never been a case decided by them or the Supreme Court where a person in handcuffs was not considered in custody.
These terms are very complex. The importance of this blog is to shed light on your rights to a Miranda warning during a DUI investigation. You always have the right to remain silent, but a police officer is not always required to tell you that. It’s situational. We have argued countless cases where our clients made statements that were completely taken out of context. You have to understand that the officer has a job to do, which is to investigate an alleged crime. Therefore, anything you say or do will be used against you. Our best advice is to not say anything and ask for your lawyer. It is not your job to help the officer with his investigation.