Anyone who has watched enough police procedural shows knows that reading the suspect his or her Miranda rights is a crucial part of any arrest. In spite of the fact that these warnings are frequently portrayed as essential to the arrest, with the lack of proper notice frequently being cited as a basis for overturning criminal charges, the reality is far less clear.
Miranda Rights refers to the warnings given by officers to detained suspects who are about to be questioned. Unfortunately, this is not the case, especially when it comes to DWI stops in Minnesota, despite the widespread belief that any arrest in which an officer fails to read these warnings will ultimately be thrown out. The only time Miranda warnings are required is when an individual is in custody and being questioned by a law enforcement official. The two requirements for a Miranda warning are (1) being arrested and (2) being interrogated in custody. For instance, if a person has been arrested and is being transported to a nearby police station for further questioning, he or she must be advised of his or her Miranda rights. If the officer fails to do so, the information obtained during the interrogation will not be admissible in a subsequent trial.
The problem is that in the majority of Minnesota drunk driving cases, Miranda warnings are unnecessary. The majority of drunk driving cases do not require a detention interrogation. Officers may question suspected drunk drivers, but no warning is required if these questions occur outside of police custody. Upon arrest, a simple blood alcohol test can be administered, typically without the need for lengthy questioning sessions. However, there is one scenario in which Miranda warnings would be required during an arrest for drunk driving.
For example, if a driver was arrested on suspicion of DUI, placed under arrest, and transported to the police station for a breath test, that driver is now clearly in police custody, which is the first requirement for invoking Miranda rights. Before continuing with the interrogation, the Miranda Rights must be explained and waived if the officer decides to question the individual, perhaps about the amount of alcohol consumed that evening.
If a police officer fails to inform a suspect of his or her Miranda rights, it is crucial to understand that the suspect’s case will not necessarily be dismissed. Instead, the results of this unlawful interrogation will not be admissible in the eventual criminal prosecution.
Must the police read the rights during a DUI traffic stop and investigation?
Officers are not required to read Miranda warnings during a DUI investigation. A DUI investigation encompasses everything that transpires between a driver’s stop and arrest. This could happen after a traffic stop or at a DUI sobriety checkpoint. Currently, a driver is not “in custody.” Therefore, the officer is not required to read Miranda before interrogating the suspect.
What transpires during a DWI investigation?
During a DWI investigation, a police officer may take one or more of the following steps:
• Request that the driver perform one or more “field sobriety tests” (“FSTs”); • Request that the driver submit to a cheek swab for DUI of marijuana or driving under the influence of drugs (in some jurisdictions); and/or
• Inquire if the driver demonstrates signs of impairment, such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, dilated or “pinprick” pupils, or confusion.
Typical questions posed by a police officer include:
• Where are you coming from?
• Were you drinking?
• Have you consumed any prescription or illegal drugs today or last night?
Other evidence of driving under the influence is admissible. Drivers must also keep in mind that statements are not the only indication of driving under the influence. Even if Miranda rights have been violated, the prosecutor may still present additional drunk driving evidence.
Such evidence may include: • Any traffic violations committed by the driver; • Observable signs of physical and mental impairment (such as a flushed face, the smell of alcohol, etc.); • The presence of alcohol and/or drugs or drug paraphernalia in the vehicle; • The driver’s performance on field sobriety tests; • The driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as determined by a DUI blood test or DUI breath test; • Traffic cam video footage and/or still photography