The Miranda warning or Miranda rights is a warning 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 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.
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.
However, not everyone is an expert on the law, and not every citizen knows their rights if they come under suspicion for 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 have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.
Officers do not have to use this exact wording. In fact, 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
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 what 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 decide to agree to it.
If you do agree to answer questions, your consent has to be “voluntary, knowing and intelligent.” In other words, 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.
If my rights were violated, how does that affect my case? What can I do about it?
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.
The best thing to do in any DUI case is 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.
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 the form to the right or call (310) 862-0199 and get your free consultation today.