Under Massachusetts law, the police must read you your Miranda rights before they subject you to “custodial interrogation.”
Most people understand “custody” to equate to being placed in handcuffs and taken to a police station, but the term “custody” has a broader definition when talking about whether someone’s Miranda Rights have been implicated. You are in “custody” whenever it would have been reasonable for you, the defendant, to feel that your freedom of action had been curtailed so much so that you did not feel that you were free to leave. For example, if you are placed in the backseat of a police car but are not in restraints, this may still be considered “custody” for Miranda purposes.
You may already be familiar with the Miranda warnings. Something along the lines of:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.
Incriminating statements are not admissible in court if you were not read your Miranda rights before being interrogated while in custody. Seek the help of an attorney if you believe your rights have been violated.
What if Police Didn’t Read You Your Rights During a DUI Arrest?
If the police arrest you for DUI or otherwise take you into custody and fail to read you your Miranda rights before asking you questions, this does not mean that your case will be dismissed. Your case will continue with whatever evidence is available. Only a judge can decide if your Miranda rights have been violated.
If the police failed to read you your rights after taking you into custody, you should consult with a DUI attorney immediately. An attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence, which could result in statements you made being excluded from evidence and, therefore, not used against you.
Any statements you made before your arrest and before you were placed into custody could still be admissible in court. This includes any voluntary statements you made during the police’s investigation, even during field sobriety tests.
When the police begin to ask initial questions after stopping you, this is generally considered to be a “threshold inquiry” and not “interrogation.” You do not have to answer any questions that may incriminate you, although it is advisable that you cooperate with the police when you are stopped.
Is the Miranda Warning Required Before a Field Sobriety Test?
No. Police are not required to read you your Miranda Warnings before administering field sobriety tests. These tests do not amount to “interrogation”, and you are not considered to be “in custody” when you are performing them. During an in-custody interrogation, police will ask direct questions about suspected criminal activity.
What if I Answered Questions Voluntarily?
If police stopped you because they suspected you of DUI, you may have answered questions honestly during their initial investigation before they placed you into custody. This may help your defense or damage your defense, depending on the circumstances.
Police will often attempt to get drivers to make voluntarily admissions during their investigation. For example, the direct question, “Have you been drinking?” is often asked. Certainly the police have an obligation to ensure that the public is safe, so the question is a legitimate one. It’s the answer, however, that can often times be problematic. If someone indicates that they have been drinking, it’s almost a guarantee that the officer’s investigation will proceed to the next step: Field Sobriety Tests.
If you answered questions voluntarily, you may still have a viable DUI defense. Contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately so they can review your case and protect your rights.