One of the most damaging of all police evidence is an admission of guilt from the defendant’s own mouth, e.g. “I’m a little buzzed,” ”I’m tipsy,” and even “I’m drunk.

A driver can be questioned during a roadside detention without having been given a Miranda Warning, or “read their rights,” because the questions are considered part of a preliminary DUI investigation conducted by the officer to help determine whether the driver should be arrested and placed in custody. These questions are designed to uncover both what and how much the suspect has had to drink along with where and when suspect has been drinking In fact, many law enforcement agencies have formalized these interrogation questions by mass printing them in extremely suggestive DUI / DWI / Drunk Driving reports that are eventually filled out by the arresting officer.

Known as the Miranda Warning (ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona), a defendant’s rights consist of the familiar litany so often cited by TV police immediately upon arresting a suspect:

“You have the right to remain silent. If you do say anything, what you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have that lawyer present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you if you so desire. If you choose to talk to the police officer, you have the right to stop the interview at any time,”

NOTE: The last sentence of the warning is usually omitted by TV police officers.

Learn More

If a suspect is taken into custody, the police must give a Miranda Warning if they want to question the suspect and use the suspect’s answers as evidence at trial. Until a suspect is actually placed in police custody, no Miranda Warning is required to be read and any answers the suspect gives to police questions can be used at trial. Many individuals believe that if they have been arrested but have not been read their rights than they can escape punishment, but this is not necessarily true. The result is simply that the prosecution cannot use anything the suspect said at the time of arrest as evidence at trial.

Now, a big issue in a DUl / DWI trial regarding whether certain incriminating statements can be used at trial revolves around a couple of questions. At what point in time after the traffic stop is the driver considered to be “in custody” for practical purposes, and can this point can occur before any formal arrest?

DUI / DWI cases in California take into account at that “in custody” involves the circumstances of the restraint and whether the suspect was deprived of his/her freedom of action in any significant way rather than the officer’s decision of when to officially take the driver “into custody” California courts have outlined what they term a Mirandatriggering interrogation where there is a “reasonable likelihood of the police words or conduct eliciting an incriminating response.” Some examples of these kinds of statements would include, “You smell like a bottle of Jack Daniels,” or “You’re the kinda guy that drinks a six-pack right after work” If these kinds of statements are classified as a Miranda-triggering interrogation and the officer fails to give the suspect a Miranda warning, then anything the suspect said at the time of arrest cannot be used as evidence at trial.

Related Links

Miranda v. Arizona
The Arizona Supreme Court opinion written in 1966 that established “Miranda Law” as the public knows it