The Miranda warning, or Miranda rights, is a warning the police have to give you after they arrest you but before they start to question you. The purpose of the warning is to make sure you know your constitutional rights before answering their questions.
If the police do not give you this warning, some of the evidence against you may not be allowed in court—which could help you win your case. Your Los Angeles DUI lawyer can go into greater detail about how to challenge constitutional rights violations, including Miranda rights violations during your initial consultation.
What Are Your Miranda Rights?
Your Miranda rights stem from the case “Miranda v. Arizona.” Here, law enforcement officials are required to read you your rights before they question you for your involvement in a criminal offense.
Since your Fifth Amendment right to protect yourself against self-incrimination is contained within the U.S. Constitution, law-enforcement officials must read you these Miranda rights when you are in police custody and law enforcement wants to conduct an interrogation.
If at any point you are free to leave, law enforcement officials are not required to read you your Miranda rights. It is important to know that you could be considered in custody without actually being under arrest, such as might be the case with a suspected DUI.
The Miranda Warning
Many people are quick to assume that the Miranda warning must be read in a specific order or with specific words. However, as long as all of your Miranda rights are read to you, it does not matter which words are used. With that in mind, your Miranda warning is as follows:
- 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 have an attorney present while you are being interrogated
- If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, one will be provided to you by the courts
Police will then ask you if you understand your rights and whether you wish to waive them so you can move forward with an interrogation. You should never waive your Miranda rights unless you have consulted with your criminal defense lawyer, and they have recommended you do so.
Why Do Police Have to Read Me My Rights?
Under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, you have to right not to incriminate yourself. Legally, this has been interpreted to give you two very important rights if you’re arrested:
- You do not have to answer questions at all and can choose to simply not answer if you wish
- You have the right to have an attorney present any time you’re questioned so that you have professional legal counsel helping you avoid self-incrimination
Miranda v. Arizona
However, not everyone is an expert on the law, and not every citizen knows their rights if they come under suspicion of committing a crime. This led to an important case known as Miranda v. Arizona. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that police must inform you of your rights before questioning you.
To make this easy, most law enforcement departments use a variation on this wording, which has come to be known as the Miranda warning:
You probably know officers do not have to use this exact wording. But you may be surprised to learn that many departments will simply have you sign a printed waiver that says you acknowledge these rights. Police are not on your side when you’ve been arrested, and they will not go out of their way to encourage you to exercise your rights.
When Exactly Do Police Have to Read Me My Rights? What if I Already Answered Questions?
The biggest misunderstanding involving Miranda rights is that police do not have to read you these rights until after they have arrested you and are ready to start interrogating you. That means:
- When you are first pulled over for DUI, police can ask you all the questions they want without reading you your rights. This is part of their “investigation.”
- Even after the arrest, police don’t have to read you your rights during the drive to jail or during processing.
- Anything you say before you are read your rights can still be used against you.
- If you said anything incriminating before being read your rights, unfortunately, your rights were not violated, and the Miranda defense will not help you.
However, it will help you if:
- You were never read your rights
- Officers read you your rights when you were heavily intoxicated or otherwise able to give meaningful consent to questioning
- Officers started questioning you after the arrest and only read you your rights later
Only when a police officer wants to begin a custodial interrogation must they read you your Miranda warning. In custodial interrogation is anyone in which you might be asked questions that could result in self-incrimination. An example could be a police officer asking someone whether they have had anything to drink and how many drinks they have had in a routine DUI investigation.
What Is Your Right to Remain Silent?
When speaking to the police, you have the right to remain silent. In fact, it is important to note that you have the right to remain silent at all times. You do not need to be read your Miranda rights in order to invoke your right to remain silent.
You can politely refuse to answer law-enforcement questions, and be sure to make sure they understand that you are not going to answer any questions they have going forward.
How Can I Assert My Miranda Rights?
Here is an example of how a DUI defendant might assert their Miranda rights after their arrest:
Officer: How many drinks did you have before you got in the car?
Defendant: I prefer not to answer any questions right now.
Officer: But your friends said you were drinking.
Defendant: I have a right to have a lawyer present. I’m not going to answer any questions until I have a lawyer.
Officer: Listen, your breath test already shows that you were over the limit. You’re making this a lot worse on yourself. Work with us here, and we’ll try to help you out.
Defendant: (says nothing)
You can invoke either (or both) of your two rights—the right to remain silent, or the right to an attorney. Police can only question you if you decide to agree to it.
If you do agree to answer questions, your consent has to be “voluntary, knowing and intelligent.” In other words, the police cannot threaten or intimidate you into it; they must already have informed you of your rights, and you must be in a state of mind where you can understand these rights and what you’re doing. If any of these conditions are broken, then your Miranda rights have been violated.
Can Miranda Rights Ever Be Waived?
After the police have read you the Miranda warning, they will likely ask you whether you understand your rights as they have read them. From there, the police will give you the opportunity to waive your rights if you want to answer their questions. To waive your Miranda rights, you may need to sign a Miranda waiver.
When the police ask you whether you want to waive your rights, you should not do so and instead assert your right to remain silent. In addition to signing an express waiver, there is also the possibility that you can waive your Miranda rights through an implied waiver. Here, any statement you give may be implied as long as it is voluntary and you were read your Miranda rights.
However, if you were coerced into waiving your Miranda rights, your constitutional rights may have been violated. Some instances that may be considered coercion include:
- Police promising that they will drop your charges if you confess
- Police threatening to call your family or your boss and tell them about your charges if you do not confess to the offense
- Police depriving you of food or water and only offering it in exchange for confessing
- Police arguing that if you are innocent you do not need an attorney
If you were coerced into waiving your Miranda rights, you may have the opportunity to change your mind after waving them. Once you invoke your Miranda rights, even if you previously waived them, any statements made or evidence obtained may be considered inadmissible at trial against you.
Exercising Your Miranda Rights
Exercising your Miranda rights is far easier than you might have thought. All you need to do is clearly state that you are asserting your right to remain silent or request to speak to a lawyer.
Unfortunately, simply not answering law enforcement questions is not going to be enough to invoke your Miranda rights. Make sure you inform law enforcement officials that you are going to exercise your rights under the law. Then, do not speak to anyone until you can reach your attorney.
If My Rights Were Violated, How Does that Affect My Case? What Can I Do About It?
There are many ways in which your Miranda rights could have been violated. Some of the more common instances of Miranda rights violations include:
- The police attempting to question you after invoking your right to remain silent
- The police not reading you a Miranda warning
- Police threatening or coercing you into waving your Miranda rights
- Failure to read Miranda rights before a custodial interrogation
- Police questioning you after you have requested an attorney
If your Miranda rights were violated in any way, you could get the court to “suppress” crucial evidence against you. This does not mean you automatically win your case—it’s unlikely the judge will throw the case out altogether.
However, when evidence is suppressed it cannot be used in the case anymore. In other words, they might not be able to use your confession, statements you made, or other key evidence. Convicting you becomes much harder, and you are more likely to win your case.
Getting a Statement Thrown Out
Unfortunately, not all statements must be thrown out after a Miranda violation. In fact, only statements the defendant makes during the time period in which your rights were violated will need to be deemed inadmissible at trial.
Furthermore, other evidence to support your guilt could still be introduced even if your statements are tossed out. Some of the more common types of evidence used in cases of constitutional rights violations include:
- Video footage of the incident
- Witness statements
- Expert testimony
- Forensic evidence
- Chemical test results
- Photos of any damages or injuries
The best thing to do in any DUI case is to speak to a lawyer who works extensively on DUI law. Your attorney can help you determine if any part of the arrest or questioning violated your rights. They can also file a motion with the court to suppress the evidence that was gathered illegally.
Get Help from a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer Today
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a free consultation. Fill out our contact form or call when you are ready to schedule your confidential case evaluation.