Many people get arrested for DUIs, and when they meet with potential attorneys trying to decide who to hire to represent them, they're telling the attorney they were not read their Miranda rights. They somehow think that can be used to help them avoid getting a conviction for a DUI.
I will tell you, there are limited circumstances where that might be helpful, but the possibilities are so few, and they usually have other evidence aside from your statement. So, Miranda is irrelevant as it relates to DUIs.
The Miranda Rights get their name from the Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, which established the requirement of police to “read you your rights” after an arrest and before asking you questions. In this landmark case, the court determined that the constitutional rights of Ernesto Miranda were indeed violated during his arrest and trial for armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape.
The law requires police officers to explain their Miranda rights after they are arrested, but before questioning or pursuing a formal statement while in custody. These rights are similar to the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution, which give you the right not to incriminate yourself and have an attorney.
After you are arrested, a police officer has to make some version of the following statement, which is commonly known as the Miranda Warning, before asking you any questions:
- “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. You have the right to a lawyer. If you cannot afford an attorney, 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?”
Simply put, law enforcement officers must read you the Miranda Warning after an arrest, but before interrogating you. Any evidence they obtain in their conversations with you could be determined inadmissible in court if they fail to do so. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review this subject in more detail below.
Miranda Rights Explained
To give you a scenario where it would be relevant, we can talk about where it would not be applicable. First, if you are in custody – maybe you're in the back of the police car, or perhaps you're at the station, handcuffed, and the police start asking you questions about your case.
If they have not read you your Miranda rights, any statements you make could be turned over so that your attorney could argue that they violated your Miranda rights and can't use those statements against you.
That doesn't win your case. They can still proceed with that evidence if they have other evidence aside from your statements. For example, if they have your breath or your blood and it's a .08 or greater and they can prove that you were driving the car at a particular time, they're going to be able to use that evidence regardless of any statement you might make.
Were Your Statements Voluntary?
Another thing I see the police doing is when somebody does make a statement; they claim that it's voluntary. They claim that spontaneously, the person said, boy, I had way too much to drink. You ought to arrest me. That would be an example of a spontaneous statement that they could use against you even if they didn't read you your Miranda rights.
The only time it becomes applicable is if they've got you in custody. They're asking you direct questions trying to incriminate you, and then you say something that incriminates you that they want to use later.
Now your attorney can snap into the argument that your Miranda rights were violated. Therefore, they shouldn't be able to use any statements against you or any evidence that came from a statement. If you tell them that the gin bottles are in the trunk, you'll see it, and now they want to use that gin bottle to prove that you were driving.
Prosecutors Don't Typically Need Incriminating Statements to Convict
The reality is, and this is the second part of it, that they don't need a statement to convict somebody for a DUI most of the time. They're going to pull you over. They're going to claim that you were driving erratically, for example. They're going to claim that you failed to field sobriety test.
The most important thing is that they will look at your blood alcohol level to determine whether it was a .08 or greater, at least in Los Angeles, California, as of today.
Readers should note that they're trying to change it and move it down to a .05. Right now, we're at .08 – if they can prove a .08 or greater, then it's presumed that you could not safely operate a motor vehicle and, therefore, you are guilty of a DUI, and the prosecutors are going to want to plead to a DUI under those circumstances.
What are Some Other Defenses for DUI Charges?
Of course, some defenses could be brought up to challenge that. For example, an expert could say this person blew a .08. The breath machine has an error rate of about .02, so this person could have been a .06.
Then, if you passed all of the field sobriety tests and we have you on their vehicle video looking great, talking without having any issues, now we're in a situation where we can make an argument to defend you. You see, in that scenario, that has nothing to do with Miranda.
That has nothing to do with whether or not you made a statement that incriminated yourself. We can block all statements. They don't need a statement to get that blood or breath from you and determine whether or not you were a .08, and they don't need a statement to tell a jury how you were driving and how you performed on the field sobriety tests.
The bottom line is that if you have a DUI and need a defense attorney, you've come to the right place. I've been doing this for nearly 30 years. I worked for the DA's office way back in the day. I worked for a superior court judge, and since the early 1990s, I have worked for people just like you, defending them for DUIs and doing everything I can to get the best result.
The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles County, and we serve people throughout the greater LA County area, including Ventura County, Orange County, Riverside, and San Bernardino. You can reach us for a free case review by phone or by filling out our contact form.