Most people can recite their Miranda rights (or Miranda warnings) because they have seen actors repeat them endlessly on episodes of Law and Order. You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can be used later in court, you have the right to an attorney present when questioned, and you have the right to have an attorney provided if you can’t afford one.
But do the police “have” to read you these rights when they pull you over?
The answer is more complicated than many people imagine.
Miranda Warnings are Not Required during an Investigation
When you get stopped for suspected DWI, the police are performing an investigation. In short, they need more evidence that you are intoxicated before they can arrest you. They might ask questions, shine a light in your face, or ask you to take a field sobriety test. Because you are not arrested, they do not have to give Miranda warnings.
Miranda Warnings are Not Required When You Are Arrested
This often surprises people. After all, they see police on TV repeat these words as they slap handcuffs on a suspect. But, under the law, police are not required to read them at the point of arrest. There’s a simple reason for that, and to understand that let’s take a closer look at the Supreme Court case, Arizona v. Miranda.
Why Do We Have Miranda Warnings?
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says that people have a right against self-incrimination. That means you can’t be forced to answer questions in court. Since statements you make can be admitted in court against you, the Fifth Amendment must also apply during custodial interrogations.
In the 1960s, the Supreme Court confronted many cases where criminal defendants had confessed to crimes. However, police had not advised these suspects of their right to remain silent or warned them that any statements they made could be introduced in a trial against them.
Eventually, the Supreme Court grew weary of the lack of safeguards protecting defendants, so in Miranda v. Arizona in 1966, the court said that prosecutors could not use statements from the defendant unless police gave certain warnings before a custodial interrogation.
This last bit is key—Miranda applies only to statements made during a “custodial interrogation.” When the police arrest you, they might not have any intent to interrogate you until they get to the jail. In that case, they might wait to read Miranda warnings when you pull into the station.
What if You Make Incriminating Statements after Arrest?
We might be able to get your statements thrown out—but only if made in response to police questioning. If you decide to blurt out statements in the back of the police cruiser, those might possibly come in even if you have not been Mirandized.
Seeking Legal Advice for a Harris County, TX DWI Case?
Call Our Team of Houston DWI Attorneys
Houston DWI lawyer Tad A. Nelson, will carefully review all facts to determine if we can get certain evidence dismissed. If successful, we can increase your odds of a favorable plea or even dismissal of charges.
One thing we always look closely at are statements our clients made. We ask, “Were you under arrest?” “Had the police started an interrogation?” If so, and you had not been given Miranda warnings, we might seek to exclude any incriminating statements.
To get started or to speak with Tad, call 713-489-7373.