Your Right to Remain Silent

In the groundbreaking decision of Miranda v Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966), the United States Supreme Court ruled that statements obtained through custodial interrogation are inadmissible to prove a defendant's guilt if the officer did not first advise him of his or her rights.  Of course, we have come to know these rights as Miranda Rights.

You have a right to remain silent, right to an attorney, and anything you say can and will be used against you is a phrase that through government class, word of mouth, and episodes of Law and Order, has become a central part of our understanding of your rights and a police officer’s duty to tell you those rights when you are arrested.   However, even though the cops are supposed to tell you your rights, most of the time in drunk driving cases, the police officer will conveniently forget to mention this to you as you confess that you have been drinking.

A question I get in many driving while intoxicated cases is what happens if the police didn’t read the client their rights.  The answer to this is that if you made a confession or other types of statements while you were in custody and weren’t read your rights, then those statements are suppressed at your trial.  This means that at your DUI trial, the prosecutor couldn’t bring in to evidence any statements you made to the cops about how you drank 15 beers two hours before.  However, in order for your Miranda Rights to kick in, the statements have to be a result of custodial interrogation.

In the context of a Miranda argument, the Michigan Supreme Court has found that “custodial interrogation is a questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after the accused has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.”   People v Zahn, 234 Mich App 438, 449 (1999)  To determine whether a defendant was in custody at the time of the interrogation, the Court must “look at the totality of the circumstances, with the key question being whether the accused reasonably could have believed he was not free to leave.”  This determination of custody “depends on the objective circumstances of the interrogation rather than the subjective views harbored by either the interrogating officers or the person being questioned.” 

I have successfully argued the Miranda issue many times as it pertains to the sub-issue of whether you were free to leave.  For instance, I have won this issue in a Felony Drunk Driving case where the Defendant was placed in the back of the cop car and then given sobriety tests in the car.  The Court held that the Defendant was not free to leave and that Miranda applied.  Also, in a murder case, I won an issue where the police walked up to the house and detained my client, who allegedly stated that she had killed the other person.  This very important statement was also suppressed. 

Miranda is a very important issue in Oakland County drunk driving cases.  For instance, sometimes the prosecutor’s major piece of evidence is that you told the cops you drank six long island iced teas three hours before.  If this statement was made while you were not free to leave, then a motion to suppress this statement must be filed.  Once you win, watch how quick the prosecutor offers you a reckless driving.