Protecting Your Miranda Rights During a DUI Arrest

Do I need to be read my Miranda rights before being questioned on the scene?

The historic United States Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona provided Americans with our now essential “Miranda Rights.” The basis for our Miranda rights stems from the Fifth Amendment in the United States constitution.  In 1966, the Supreme Court held that when a person is taken into police custody, he or she must be informed of the Fifth Amendment right not to make self-incriminating statements.  Those arrested for a DUI may be subjected to questioning in an attempt by the police to verify that the suspect has consumed drugs or alcohol.  It is important that anyone arrested for a DUI understand their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, as statements made in absence of waiver of these rights may be subject to suppression.

What Are My Miranda Rights?

The case of Miranda v. Arizona set out four fundamental rights, cumulatively known as your Miranda Rights.  These rights are as follows:

  1. You have the right to remain silent;
  2. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court;
  3. You have the right to an attorney;
  4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.

Police departments in some jurisdictions will add in additional language, which is permitted so long as it does not undermine the four basic rights.

When Should I Be Read My Miranda Rights?

It is important to understand that police officers are only required to read a suspect his or her Miranda rights if they wish to interrogate the suspect under custody. Accordingly, if you are stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, statements you make while on the scene could be admissible in court even if you are not Mirandized.  As such, it is crucial that you avoid making incriminating statements in the aftermath of being pulled over.  While it may be tempting to explain that you have just imbibed on a few alcoholic beverages, this statement could ultimately lead to your arrest.

Once you have been taken into custody, you must then be read your Miranda rights. Before the police can lawfully proceed with questioning you, you must affirmatively waive these rights.  A critical question often revolves around when a person is considered “in custody.”  Does the DUI suspect need to be in a prison cell or does custody happen sooner?  A body of case law generally supports the notion that a suspect will be considered in custody when he or she feels they are no free to leave.  This usually occurs when the suspect is in the back of the police car or has been handcuffed.

How Can I Challenge Admission of Statements I Made?

If you have made an incriminating statement, you could potentially move to suppress the statement, and thus have it excluded from evidence, if you can prove it was made in violation of your Miranda rights.  For example, if you were questioned while handcuffed and admitted to drinking before driving, this statement could be suppressed if you were never read your Miranda rights.  Each case is unique and your DUI defense lawyer will need to closely investigate your case to determine your best avenue towards contesting the charges you face.