I wasn’t read my rights, will my DUI get dismissed?

The impact of Miranda on a DUI investigation.

Miranda rights were established in 1966 in the Supreme Court of the United States case of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). In this landmark case the Court concluded that criminal suspects have the right to remain silent and the right to any attorney when being questioned by law enforcement. These rights are derived from the Fifth Amendment against self incrimination and Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The key to understanding your rights in during a DUI investigation is to know when they apply. According to the Court, these rights apply only during periods of custodial interrogation. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the definitions of “custody” and “interrogation” get blurred easily in a DUI case.

When is a person in custody?

One may think a layperson could figure out when someone is in police custody, but it’s actually not simple at all. Are you in custody when you get pulled over by police? No. How about when the officer instructs you to get out of your vehicle? No, not yet. Well then certainly when you are performing field sobriety exercises at the officer’s instruction? Still not there. The Florida Supreme Court doesn’t consider you in custody until your “freedom of action has been curtailed to a degree associated with an actual arrest.” Allred v. State, 622 So.2d 984, 987 (Fla. 1993). Since a DUI investigation typically takes place on the side of the road, in public view, for all practical purposes it means you are not in custody until you are arrested.

Custody is often confused with the concept of whether you are “free to leave.” Just because you are not free to leave it doesn’t mean you are in police custody. Whether a person is free to leave is a question regarding detention for the purpose of search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. During the course of a DUI investigation, law enforcement typically advises suspects that they are not free to leave, but that they are also not under arrest. In the eyes of the law, you are being detained by the police but not in police custody. Thus, during a routine traffic stop and DUI investigation, your Fourth Amendment rights apply but your Fifth Amendment rights do not. Next question.

When is a person being interrogated?

Police interrogations occur when the questioning is intended to elicit incriminating responses that are testimonial in nature. Pennsylvania v. Muniz, 496 U.S. 582 (1990). The Supreme Court has concluded that asking a person to perform an act, whether to perform field sobriety exercises or to provide a breath sample, and your reaction to that request is not part of an interrogation. South Dakota v. Neville, 459 U.S. 553 (1983). This means your refusal to do either can be used against you regardless of your desire to invoke your right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself. After you refuse, then you can invoke your rights. See, State v. Thompson, 987 So.2d 163 (Fla. 3d DCA 2008). Thus, modest questioning about your use of intoxicants and routine administration of field sobriety exercises is not likely to be considered an interrogation.

As you can see, courts have carved out nice little ways for law enforcement to interact with a criminal suspect and gather evidence directly from that suspect without that person being able to exercise important constitutional rights. Knowing this general information is important, but it is equally important to know there are exceptions to both of these basic principles. Factors like 1) being handcuffed; 2) the presence of a lot additional officers; 3) being transported to a different location during the investigation; 4) excessive questioning; or 5) a traffic accident may create a custodial interrogation where it would otherwise not exist. See State v. Evans, 692 So.2d 305 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997); State v. Whelan, 728 So.2d 807 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999).

If you were arrested for DUI and not read your rights, contact me at Luke Law and put me to work for you. Depending on the facts of your case, the failure of law enforcement to properly advise you of your constitutional rights can lead to the suppression of evidence being used against you. You can reach me at 904-637-2700 or nathan@lukelaw.com. Luke Law, LLC is located in Orange Park, Florida, and is conveniently located near Green Cove Springs, Middleburg, and most areas in northeast Florida. I am also available to travel to you to discuss your legal matters.

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