The Myth Surrounding Miranda Rights and California DUI Investigations

Posted by Neil Shouse | Nov 05, 2009 | 0 Comments

Many people incorrectly believe that if you are arrested for a California DUI…and the police don't read you your “Miranda rights”…that your DUI charges will automatically be dismissed. The fact, however, is that absent very specific circumstances, Miranda rights are generally not required as a part of a California DUI investigation.

Miranda rights, which typically consist of something along the lines of “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 speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you at no cost…” are only required when you (1) have been placed under arrest, and (2) are being interrogated.

The first requirement needs little explanation. The second, however, does. An interrogation is different from a casual conversation. If the officer isn't asking you questions that are designed to elicit incriminating responses, he doesn't need to advise you of your Miranda rights.

But keep in mind…the police aren't your friends. Don't get caught up in conversation…it may just be an officer's way of tricking you into revealing information without him having to advise you of your rights. If he can successfully do this, any statements you make will be used against you. Remember — Miranda rights are generally not required as a part of a California DUI investigation. So don't allow yourself to make statements just because you think your DUI case will be thrown out of court since the officer never “read you your rights”.

If you do find yourself in a situation where (1) you are arrested, and (2) the officer begins questioning you without “reading you your rights”, your California DUI defense attorney will most likely prevail in a motion to have any statements you make excluded from evidence. But if both of those requirements aren't satisfied, any incriminating statements that you make will be admissible against you.

It must be noted that any questions that the officer asks you before you are arrested are simply California DUI investigation questions…and, as a result, do not entitle you to Miranda protection.

This means that if you voluntarily answer the officer's questions as to what type of alcohol you drank, how much alcohol you drank, etc., any answers you gave will be used against you during DUI plea bargaining and/or trial.

The bottom line is that the best way to avoid having incriminating statements used against you is to keep quiet! Respectfully inform the officer at the beginning of your California DUI investigation that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent. And then, as difficult as it may be, do just that. (See our related articles, "Think you have the right to remain silent in California? Thing again" and "Police interrogation of children following a California DUI arrest.")

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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