DUI and Miranda

Miranda RightsWe are all familiar with the elements of a Miranda warning:
  • you have the right to remain silent;
  • any statements you make may be used against you in a court of law;
  • you have the right to legal representation;
  • if you can't afford an attorney, the court will appoint one for you.
This warning, which stems from the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Miranda v. Arizona (1966), must be given to people who are arrested and taken into custody by police and then subjected to questioning regarding the alleged crime. If police take someone into custody and conduct an interrogation without administering a Miranda warning, the defense attorney should move to throw out any statements that were made.

DUI and MirandaPeople who've been arrested for DUI often want to know why a Miranda warning wasn't given when police pulled them over and asked questions such as "Have you been drinking?" The answer is that a Miranda warning is not required when the pre-arrest questions constitute an investigation, not an interrogation.

The key elements to focus on in regard to the Miranda warning are arrest, detention, and interrogation. If you have not been arrested and detained and you are not being subjected to a police interrogation, the Miranda warning is not necessary.

Consider the pattern that most DUI arrests follow. A police officer observes someone driving erratically and initiates a traffic stop. The officer approaches the vehicle and makes observations (Is there a smell of alcohol emanating from the car?) and poses a series of questions (How many drinks did you have? and When did you have your last drink?). Based on this investigation, the officer determines whether probable cause exists to make an arrest. Because all of this happens before an arrest, Miranda generally does not apply.

A 2012 California appellate court decision (People v. Bejasa) provides an example of when Miranda warnings are required and affirms that police authority to gather information has limits. After the defendant in this case was involved in an auto collision, police asked him questions, learned that he was on parole, searched his vehicle and found drugs, handcuffed him and put him in the back of a patrol car, removed him from the patrol car, took off the handcuffs, and continued with the questioning - all without providing a Miranda warning. The appellate court said that because a reasonable person would have been of the opinion that he was in police custody and not free to leave, the police should have read the defendant his Miranda rights. Because the police failed to do so, the evidence and testimony obtained should have been excluded from trial.

Protect Your RightsIt's important to know and protect your rights when arrested for DUI. For example, let's say that you've been arrested and are being transported in a police vehicle to the jail for booking. Any information that you voluntarily provide to the officer is not subject to Miranda protections and may be used against you.

In addition, if an officer pulls you over for suspicion of drunk driving, you have the right to say that you do not wish to answer any questions.

If the police decide to interrogate you, they should administer the Miranda warning and you should invoke your right to be represented by a defense lawyer.

Free and Confidential ConsultationThe Miranda warning represents a vital protection individuals have against law enforcement's power to detain and interrogate. If you've been arrest for DUI, call me at (916) 442-1200 for a no obligation consultation regarding your case.