New clients often tell me that they are shocked that police questioned them, searched their property, and took them to jail without reading them the Miranda Warning. Tippecanoe County drivers pulled over for DUI are given breathe tests; Purdue students suspected of visiting a common nuisance are asked if they knew marijuana was in a friend’s dorm room; Purdue students suspected of minor consumption of alcohol are asked their age and to take a breathe test – all without having been read their rights.
Almost everyone is familiar with the Miranda Warning, which is often read when someone is arrested. If you have not been read your rights by a police officer, you have almost certainly watched on TV and heard a police officer read:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.”
From the pure language of the Miranda Warning, it would be easy to assume that a suspect in a criminal case is aware of his or her rights at the beginning of an investigation. However, that is never true. When might you hear the Miranda Warning? When it is too late!
Criminal cases begin with an allegation or suspicion that someone has committed a crime. When police have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, they can make an investigatory traffic stop, or seek to interview possible witnesses or suspects, without reading the Miranda Warning. For example, if you are pulled over for suspicion of DUI, all of the following will occur before you are advised of your Miranda rights: 1.) you will be asked whether you have been drinking and how much; 2.) You may be asked whether you have weapons or drugs in your vehicle; 3.) You will be asked to undergo Standard Field Sobriety Tests, known as the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn, and one-leg stand tests; 4.) You will be asked to take a breathe test to determine your blood alcohol level and told that you will lose your driver’s license for one year if you refuse; and 5.) You may be taken to jail to perform these tests! All before you are read your rights.
Police are trained to interrogate people to obtain evidence. During the initial investigation, anything that you say can be used against you later at trial. If you are a suspect in a crime, you have two important Constitutional rights that you should use immediately: the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.