Were you read your Miranda Rights?

Anybody who has watched television has heard that the arresting officer must read the “Miranda rights” when a citizen is arrested. What is the effect of the officer not reading the Miranda rights to a person arrested for DUI? It depends upon the particular facts of your case.

The “Miranda rule” came about in order to insure that statements by the accused would not be coerced by police officers. The arrestee’s responses to questions by a police officer cannot be used in court, no matter how critical they are to proving the charge, unless the prosecution proves that the suspect was advised of the Miranda rights and waived those rights before questioning. A common misconception is that a criminal charge is automatically dismissed if the suspect was not “read his rights.” The truth is that the prosecution is entitled to continue but would be prevented from using the suspect’s statements in court. If those statements were a critical part of the case, there might not be enough evidence remaining to attempt to prove the charge. Then, a dismissal might follow. If there is sufficient evidence remaining without considering statements of the accused, the trial will go on. 

Most people DO waive their right to remain silent and answer the officer’s questions, thinking that if they cooperate with the officer it will help their case. Certainly, everyone wants to be cooperative. However, in asking questions of a suspect in custody, the officer is doing his job and looking for more evidence to help INCRIMINATE THE SUSPECT. The law gives you the right not to answer questions, and your silence cannot be used against you in court as evidence of “consciousness of guilt.”

A form (usually called the Alcohol Influence Report, or AIR) is used by almost all Washington police agencies. It contains questions asked of all DUI suspects who waive the right to remain silent. Typically, the officer writes down the suspect’s answers to the questions and the suspect is not allowed to review the answers written down for correctness or context.

As you have read, one of the “Miranda rights” is the right to consult with an attorney before answering questions. In Washington state, by a criminal court rule set forth by the Washington Supreme Court, a suspect in custody on suspicion of DUI must be advised that he has the right to an attorney before being asked to make a decision about taking or refusing the breath test. If suspect was not advised of the right to counsel as explained herein, a breath test subsequently administered cannot be used in the DUI criminal prosecution.