Why Wasn’t I Mirandized?
You were not given Miranda warnings because the officer did not take you into custody… or did he?
Miranda v. Arizona is a U.S. Supreme Court decision know by almost everyone. It gives you the right to remain silent. What a big deal. In this country you do not have to talk to the police.
When an officer comes to your door following a traffic stop anything the officer sees, smells or hears is fair game. It is common that the officer will ask you questions such as, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” or “Have you had anything to drink tonight?”
Just Remain Silent
You do not have to answer these questions. Simply remain silent. By being silent (the officer will call it non-compliant) you have removed the possibility of damaging statements and the universal “slurred speech” from the probable cause determination. The officer must make a difficult decision: place you under arrest or let you go.
Invoking Your Miranda Rights
The officer is required to give you Miranda warnings only once. Once given, you are not free to go, i.e. you are in custody, i.e. you have been placed under arrest. Courts do not consider the initial contact, when you are in your car, to be a custodial situation. Thus, anything you say at this point would be admissible in court. The manner in which you speak (slurred, slow, mush-mouthed) will also be admissible. And here is the kicker…
If you invoke your Miranda rights and say nothing, the jury will never find out. Because it is such an important right, invoking your right to remain silent will not be used against you in a trial. Likewise, a jury will never find out that you asked to speak to an attorney. A famous comedian once said that understanding your right to remain silent and invoking your right to remain silent are very different skills. To quote Ron White, “I had the right to remain silent, but not the ability.” Trust me, no one has talked their way out of a DUI if the officer had an evidence-based belief that they were intoxicated.
Once you are in custody, you are facing harsher penalties if you do not agree to take a chemical test. This blog post does not apply to the decision to take the test, but to the decision to answer questions. This blog post also does not address the issue of whether or not you must identify yourself to the officer (spoiler: you must!). If you are unsure about your rights, ask to speak to an attorney. Better yet, call my 24 hour number at (937) 776-2671.