New Limits on Miranda Rights

The Supreme Court limited the applicability of Miranda rights on Monday. Most people are aware that if they are arrested for a criminal offense, the police should advise them of their "Miranda Rights". This normally involves the police advising a suspect in custody that they do not have to say anything unless they wish to do so and that anything they say may be held against them in a court of law. In addition, a suspect in custody should be advised of their right to consult with an attorney of their choice.

The 5-4 ruling on Monday upheld a murder conviction of a Texas man who sat silently when asked questions by a police officer. At his trial, the Prosecution commented on the defendant's failure to speak up when confronted with damaging evidence about shotgun shells found at the scene of the murder being traced to the defendant's shotgun. The Justices decided that the 5th Amendment says that no one may be "compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself", but that this did not create an unqualified right to remain silent.

However, the defendant in this case had voluntarily attended the police station and was technically not in custody at the time of the questioning. The courts have decided that the requirement of Miranda warnings is triggered by the suspect being taken into custody. The Justices decided that as the suspect was not in custody, he needed to invoke his rights by stating that he wished to remain silent. The suspect, Salinas, simply said nothing in response to questions.

This case is unlikely to make a difference to DUI cases in California, as it is rare for a suspect to volutarily attend the police station for questioning. The majority of suspects are stopped and detained by the police, before being taken into custody for a breath or blood test.

In DUI cases, the courts have decided that when a person is "detained" for a DUI, the police may ask questions without giving Miranda warnings as the suspect is not "in custody" until he is formally arrested. This allows the police to ask a motorist if he has been drinking, and other potentially damaging questions following a traffic stop, without the need to read him his rights. These questions are typically asked prior to the performance of field sobriety tests and at a time when the defendant, although not free to leave, is considered "detained" and not "in custody".

If you have questions concerning your Constitutional Rights in a DUI case, please call Los Angeles DUI attorneys at Gold & Witham for a free consultation.


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