Are Miranda Rights Mandatory in a DUI Traffic Stop?
The Miranda Rights get their name from the famous Supreme Court Case Miranda v. Arizona, which established that the police must “read you your rights” after an arrest and before they ask you questions.
Thousands of people get arrested for DUIs routinely. When meeting with defense lawyers, they frequently say they were not read their Miranda rights. Many DUI defendants believe that this can be used to help them avoid a conviction.
However, this is mostly a myth. I will tell you; there are limited situations where it could be helpful to your case as prosecutors typically have other evidence to obtain a conviction. Thus, Miranda is largely irrelevant as it relates to DUIs.
Many people don’t realize that the police never have to read your Miranda rights. That includes a DUI stop. If they don’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
The bottom line is that Miranda is only relevant if you’re in custody and the police are either asking you direct questions about your crime to incriminate you or saying things that might not be direct questions but are designed to get you to talk and say something that incriminates you.
That’s the only reason the Miranda rights are even applicable, and even the police in a DUI situation cannot read your Miranda rights and ask you a bunch of questions, even if you are in custody.
You can incriminate yourself, and they may not be able to use those statements because they violated your Miranda rights. Still, many times, it doesn’t matter because in DUI cases, they’re looking at what your blood alcohol level is and:
- Were you driving a car?
- Were you intoxicated?
- Were you so intoxicated that you couldn’t safely operate a motor vehicle?
So, who cares about what you said in your Miranda situation?
Miranda Rights – Explained
Miranda rights are similar to the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution that give you the right not to incriminate yourself and have a lawyer.
After an arrest, a police officer will make various similar statements that are called a “Miranda warning” before asking questions, such as:
- “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 can’t afford it, one will be provided. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? Do you want to speak to me with these rights in mind?”
As noted, law enforcement officers must read your Miranda Warning after an arrest, but before interrogating you. Any evidence obtained in their conversations with you could be inadmissible in court if they don’t.
Perhaps you are in the back seat of a police car. You may be handcuffed at the police station, and then a police officer starts asking you questions about your case.
If you were not read the Miranda rights, then your defense lawyer could argue that the police violated your legal rights and that those statements can’t be used against you. However, it does not automatically mean your case will be dismissed, as they can still use other evidence.
Perhaps the prosecutor has evidence that your breath or blood alcohol level is 0.08% or greater, and they can prove that you were driving the car. This typically means they will be able to use that evidence regardless of any statement you might make.
Often, police will claim that your statements were voluntary, which means reading the Miranda rights is irrelevant. It’s only applicable if they’ve got you in custody and asking you direct questions trying to incriminate yourself to be used against you later in court.
What is an Example When Miranda is Not Appropriate?
Most of the time, Miranda is not appropriate. I can give you a perfect example of when Miranda would be proper. Let’s say you’re driving along and crash into a telephone pole. You get out of your car, and you go for help. You walk two miles down the road.
A couple of hours later, the police show up, and you’re now coming back with help to get your car and it won’t start. The police put you in custody in the back of the patrol car and asked whether you were driving that car and, if so, when you were driving the vehicle.
Now, Miranda might snap in to help you because now you’re in custody, and they’re asking you direct questions, and they’ve got a problem proving a DUI in that situation unless you help them out and give them information.
But usually, for them to get around the Miranda argument, the police will start asking you questions when you’re not in custody. When you come back, they ask:
- Is this your car?
- What happened here?
- Did you get in an accident?
- How many drinks have you had?
As long as you’re not in custody at that time – and that’s where the battle lines are drawn – then Miranda doesn’t apply.
Contact a DUI Defense Professional for Help
So, we have to look at the facts and circumstances of the case. Most of the time, Miranda is not going to help you, but there are those circumstances where they violate your Miranda rights, and they need those statements to make the case.
If you find yourself in that circumstance, or you’ve been arrested for a DUI and need help, you’ve come to the right place.
Because not only will I look at the Miranda rights, I’m going to look at the stop, your breath or blood result – I’m going to look at everything to try to cover every angle to keep you out of jail, to keep your record clean and do everything I can to help you.
So, put my 30 years of experience to work for you, defending people with DUIs just like you to ensure you either get your case dismissed or get the best possible result based on the circumstances you find yourself in.
Pick up the phone now and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, California. We offer a free case consultation via phone or use the contact form.