One of the most frequently asked questions about Georgia DUI Law is whether a police officer must read someone their Miranda rights after a Georgia DUI arrest.
The short answer is “generally no.”
A more comprehensive discussion of Miranda rights and DUI arrests may shed some light on my answer.
Our courts have held that a criminal suspect must be informed of their rights when they are both in custody and being questioned about a suspected crime.
Custody in a DUI Arrest:
The issue of whether a person is in custody for purposes of Miranda comes down to whether a reasonable person would believe they were not free to leave or disengage a police interaction.
In a DUI case, the police are trained to make sure as to not lead someone to believe that they cannot leave or that the interaction will lead to an arrest.
This is why they ask people to step out of their car and perform voluntary field sobriety tests. It is why police officers try to act in a friendly way and even try to tell people that they are only checking to make sure someone is safe to drive. It is why the police do not handcuff and arrest people they already know are driving under the influence.
That being said, when someone is so impaired that anyone would realize they are going to be arrested, the police then would have to read that person their rights before proceeding with their DUI investigation.
Furthermore, when a suspected DUI driver has committed some other crime, then Miranda would also have to be read. An example is when the police already know a person's license is suspended, when a person has attempted to flee and elude the police, or when drugs are found in a person's vehicle in plain view.
In all of those circumstances, the suspected DUI driver would already know that they were going to be arrested. As a result, they would have to be informed of their rights before a police officer may start or continue their DUI investigation.
Questioning for purposes of Miranda:
The second element is whether the police either need to question someone or are attempting to elicit a potential confession.
For one thing, when a person speaks to a police officer without being directly questioned, the use of their statements does not violate the law. For example, I have watched several arrest videos where people make statements against their interest, without being questioned.
I have heard people admit to drinking, tell an officer they knew they should not have driven, admitted to being involved in a hit and run case, or even plead to an officer that they will never drive drunk again if released.
All of those statements may help the prosecutor get a conviction, and none of those statements are elicited by the police. Accordingly, none of those statements violate anyone's rights.
Also, preliminary questioning by the police also does not violate a person's rights. The police are allowed to ask from where a person has come and to where are they going. If the answer involves a drinking establishment, that is how the cookie crumbles.
The point is that preliminary, non-custodial, questioning does not violate someone's rights.
In summary, in most Georgia DUI arrests, the police are not required to read someone their rights. Accordingly, anyone who has a police interaction should follow my advice; do not speak to the police for any reason or in any circumstance.
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