California DUI Laws: Understanding the Miranda Requirement


You’re driving down the road, a cop pulls you over, and immediately they start asking you questions. Where have you been? Where are you going? Trying your best to be cooperative, you answer the questions, and before you know it you’re being arrested for a DUI. It’s a scene that’s more common than most people think, and it’s unfortunate. Most of the time, the officer will ask you questions before reading your Miranda rights. While it’s perfectly legal to do so, they’ll also use anything you say against you – long before they tell you so. Many people are unaware of how Miranda rights really work and what to say and do during a traffic stop. As such, they answer questions in an attempt to helpful or because they think they have to. This can lead to trouble. Here’s what you should know about the Miranda requirement and how it works in California DUI cases.

An Attempt to Retrieve Information

If an officer starts asking you questions right after pulling you over, he or she is likely hoping you will incriminate yourself. By answering these questions, you can actually put yourself in legal peril relatively quickly. Most people believe that if they answer an officer’s questions and are as honest as possible, they will only help themselves. However, this is not always true. More often than not, answering questions just gives the officer legal ammunition.

The Right to Remain Silent

While many people answer a police officer’s’ questions because they want to be honest, others answer them because they believe they don’t have a choice. Unfortunately, a common misconception is that you can only exercise your “Miranda rights” after they have been read to you. However, the Fifth Amendment gives you protection against self-incrimination whether or not you’ve been read a Miranda warning. In other words, you’re not required to answer any police-directed questions and can invoke your Fifth Amendment rights at any time. Silence or the refusal to answer questions cannot be used against you as “evidence” of guilt, but the words you say certainly can be.

The Miranda Requirement

We’ve all seen the procedural dramas where the perpetrator is cuffed and the cops read them their rights. However, there’s much more to the Miranda warning than most people are aware. For one thing, police officers are only required to read you your rights after an arrest and before an interrogation. Strangely enough, anything you say around those times can be used against you, as well, even before the Miranda Warning has been issued. This is how many people fall victim to the trap of unintentionally giving away too much information.

What to Do If You’re Pulled Over

If you’re pulled over for any reason, you should follow the same protocol. This protocol will help keep you out of trouble and show the cop that you’re being respectful and cooperative.

●     Put your blinker on as soon as you see the cop’s lights.

●     Pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so.

●     Turn your engine off, roll down your window, and keep both hands on the wheel until the officer asks you to retrieve your license and registration.

Once the officer begins speaking to you, be polite but say as little as possible. If it becomes apparent that you were pulled over based on an officer’s suspicion that you’re driving under the influence, you should answer every question with a polite but resolute “I respectfully decline to answer your question under the Fifth Amendment. Am I under arrest, or am I free to go?”

What If You’ve Already Spoken?

The above information can only help you prevent incriminating yourself during a traffic stop. But what happens if you already spoke to the police? What if you’re awaiting trial? You can still defend yourself by pointing out that you were not read the Miranda Warning prior to you statements. Tell your attorney that you thought you had to answer the officer’s questions. Under the Miranda law, any statement used against you must have been given voluntarily. The law also states that no statement can be voluntarily given if the person giving it is unaware that they have the right to decline to answer. If you combine those two components of the law, you can reasonably argue that no statement given to the police prior to their notifying you of your rights is a voluntary statement.

DUI laws are tricky, but you do have recourses if you’ve been charged with one. Make sure to speak to a DUI attorney immediately, or as soon as possible, after your arrest. Let him or her know if you weren’t read your rights, and offer as much information as possible that might help bolster your defense. Only an experienced DUI lawyer will be able to look at the specifics of your case and craft the most beneficial defense possible.


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