One of the most common concerns that our DUI clients have about their arrest is that the police never “read them their rights.” The police are trained to read you your rights when they arrest you. So, why do so many DUI clients have this same experience? The main reason is that the police usually ask most of their questions during the detention phase of the case – after they pull you over but before they arrest you. So, it is important to remember that you are not required to answer police questions and it is in your best interest to politely refuse to do so. (Read more here about why you should not speak with the police)
In Miranda v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court ruled that when a person is arrested by the police, the police must advise them of certain rights before questioning. We've all seen Miranda rights being read in pop culture: “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. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
What if the police don't read you these rights? If the police violate the Miranda rule, your arrest is not invalidated. The prosecutor can still pursue a case against you even if the police violate this rule. Instead, the potential remedy is that the judge will deem any statements you make during a “custodial interrogation” inadmissible in your case.
In DUI cases, police officers typically get their questions answered prior to the arrest. Also, most DUI cases are built on circumstantial evidence. The police believe that they do not need the defendant to confess to being under the influence because they can instead rely on other evidence such as:
- Any unusual or unsafe driving (swerving, speeding, failing to stop, etc.);
- The police officer's observations about your appearance (odor of alcohol, slurred speech, red/watery eyes, unsteady gait, etc.);
- Your performance on Field Sobriety Tests (FST's); and
- The results of your breath and/or blood tests.
Of course, the police will try to get statements to use against you. For example, the police will ask you a series of questions that will be used to build a case against you. (“How much have you had to drink?”, “Where are you coming from?”, “When was the last time you drank alcohol?”, etc.) These statements will frequently be allowed as evidence against you because the courts have decided that Miranda protections do not apply to pre-arrest roadside DUI detentions.
In DUI cases, the courts have held that police questioning during a roadside DUI detention does not qualify as a “custodial interrogation.” There are only two requirements for triggering Miranda protections: (1) the driver is “in custody”; and (2) the police are interrogating (questioning) the driver. Although it may feel like you are “in custody” when the police officer pulls you over and asks you to step out of the vehicle to do FST's, this is not “custody” for Miranda purposes. Therefore, in a typical DUI arrest, there is no need for the police to give a Miranda warning until the police have actually told you that you are under arrest and they put handcuffs on you. By then, the police have likely already received all of the information they need from you. Therefore, since they are not going to question you after your arrest, they don't usually read the Miranda warnings.
But, you can outsmart them! The most important thing to remember when dealing with the police is that you never have to say anything. If you are pulled over by police, your only obligation is to provide your license, registration, and proof of insurance. Any other information you provide to the police is completely voluntary. You do not have to answer any other questions the police ask you. This does not mean that you have to be hostile or antagonistic towards the police. But we always advise our clients to politely refuse to answer any questions.
When the police pull you over, they are not your friend. When we cross-examine CHP officers, they will cheerfully testify that, “Every traffic stop is a DUI investigation.” This means that as soon as the officer approaches your vehicle, he or she is looking for evidence to arrest you for DUI. Do not help them arrest and convict you. When you are pulled over by the police, just remember that you have the right to remain silent. Take this right seriously! Silence is golden.
If you have been arrested for DUI and you talked to the police, your case is not hopeless. We have successfully defended many cases where our clients have admitted to drinking before driving. Call us for a free consultation and let us fight for your rights!