Miranda Warnings and DUI

As a kid, I wanted to be a lawyer – and for some reason decided it would be important for me to memorize the Miranda warning. So I paid close attention to Law & Order, Cops, and any other show where criminal suspects were “read their rights.” And here’s what I memorized:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say, can and will be used against you in the court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.

If you’d asked me at the time, I would have told you that these were magic words that had to be read to anyone who was arrested before the police could talk to them. Then I went to law school. And like so many things I thought about our legal system, law school turned it upside down. Here’s what I learned.

Miranda warnings only apply to “custodial interrogations.” So unless the police are detaining you and keeping you from leaving, they definitely do not need to read you your rights. Moreover, unless the officers want to use your statements against you at trial, they don’t need to read you your rights. Clients often tell me that they weren’t read their rights, thinking that this will mean an automatic win in their case. Nine times out of ten, it doesn’t mean a thing (but it can be important, so always mention something like this to your DUI attorney). Probably most shocking to the twelve-year-old-me who took all that time to memorize the speech, officers don’t need to give it exactly. Just something that conveys those general concepts.

Here’s the important part to remember: you ALWAYS have the right to remain silent. A recent US Supreme Court decision has stated that you need to speak up to remain silent, but you still have the right. This means that if you want to invoke your right to silence, you have to say so out loud. Just sitting there silently does NOT invoke your right to silence. So remember, even if the officers don’t read you your rights – you can request an attorney and shut your mouth. But you have to at least say that part out loud.

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