Miranda Rights…You Have the Right to a Correct Understanding
Most know the term “Miranda rights” or at least the beginning of the refrain that defines them… “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 appointed for you.” What many do not know is who Miranda is and how these rights came about and apply today to statements of any kind by the accused.
Miranda rights, also referred to as the Miranda warning, originated from the 1966 United States Supreme Court decision in the historic case of Miranda v. Arizona. “Miranda” is Mr. Ernesto Miranda, the defendant whom confessed his crimes during questioning while in police custody, during which he was never offered an attorney. It was the outcome of Miranda’s case of which established that an individual must be advised of their right to not make any self-incriminating statements, as defined by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
A question frequently asked by clients is, “I wasn’t read my Miranda rights. Can my case be dismissed?” Although it is thought to be our right, there is a common misperception about a law enforcement officer failing to read the Miranda warning, and that the failure to do so is terms for the case being thrown out. The failure to properly advise a suspect of their legal rights prior to questioning or a confession is no guarantee of an overturned conviction; especially as it applies to a DUI arrest.
Typically in a DUI traffic stop, preliminary questioning is allowed. Without having to read the suspect their Miranda warnings, law enforcement can ask an individual for routine information, such as their name, date of birth, license and registration. However, any other investigational questioning done by an officer in efforts to detect or confirm the suspicion of intoxication does not have to be answered. This includes, “How much have you had to drink tonight?” and the same rules apply to field sobriety testing, as an individual has the right to decline performing those tests. Having your rights read to you, or being “Mirandized” is required if or when police intend to perform custodial interrogations, or the questioning of a suspect in custody.
The Miranda warning must be given if a suspect is in police custody prior to asking questions about what took place during the crime. Upon being read, a suspect must affirm that they understand their rights as read to them. If for any reason, the individual indicates that they do not want to answer any questions and wish to remain silent, it is their right not to incriminate themselves and the interrogation must cease. The same rule applies if an attorney’s presence is requested. Nevertheless, if during preliminary questioning prior to being arrested and read the Miranda warning, an officer can trigger an evoked illicit answer, of which is incriminating, that “voluntary” statement or confession can be included as evidence in the court case proceedings. Often, a defendant’s spontaneous blurting can be inculpatory evidence, even if it was the product of law enforcement techniques to elicit an answer prior to arrest.
As long as questions are asked before a formal arrest or custodial interrogation and not after, it is not often that Miranda rights are read in DUI arrests.