My Rights Weren’t Read, Shouldn’t the Case be Dismissed?

April 3, 2012

It is perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions among those arrested for DUI, “the officer did not read me my Miranda rights”  Can the case be dismissed?  The answer depends on the details of the arrest, that’s because of a U.S. Supreme Court case Called Berkemer vs. McCarty.  In that case, the defendant was stopped for drunk driving. When he got out of his car, he staggered and almost fell down. At this point, the state trooper who stopped him decided that he was going to jail. But he did not tell McCarty this until he’d failed the field sobriety tests and answered questions about his sobriety. The Supreme Court ruled: McCarty was not in custody until he was formally arrested for DUI and placed in the patrol car. As a general rule, traffic stops and roadside detentions do not trigger the need for Miranda warnings. That is because they are “presumptively temporary and brief. The vast majority last only a few minutes.” Moreover, since most occur outside and in public — not in the police dominated atmosphere of the station house — “the motorist’s fear that if he does not cooperate, he will be subjected to abuse” is substantially diminished.

It should be noted: The court recognized that if a detention becomes unduly prolonged and/or the DUI suspect is “subjected to treatment that renders him ‘in custody’ for practical purposes, he will be entitled to the full panoply” of Miranda protections. Comment: Often forgotten is the fact that McCarty actually won this case. The court suppressed the statements which he made after he was arrested and affirmed the lower court’s reversal of his conviction. However, along the way, Justice Marshall also made it clear that “A policeman’s unarticulated plan [to arrest a suspect] has no bearing on the question whether a suspect was `in custody’ at a particular time; the only relevant inquiry is how a reasonable man in the suspects’ position would have understood his situation.”]  So where does this leave the average Joe arrested and charged with DUI in Bakersfield or anywhere else in Kern County?  Well, a Lawyer should investigate the circumstances surrounding the arrest, in some unique cases the officer may have gone too far.  Hire an attorney and challenge the case, it is the only way to be sure that your rights were not violated.