March 2010 Archives

March 30, 2010

Stopped for Pennsylvania DUI: They Didn't Read My Rights

Lately, I have been asked this question quite frequently: "I was arrested for a DUI in Pennsylvania and they didn't read me my rights. Don't they have to read me my rights?" This question is particularly interesting in a DUI context. Before we can understand whether or not we must be read our rights during a DUI stop we must understand some Miranda basics.

The reading of Miranda rights or "the right to remain silent and the right to counsel" protect citizens against your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and your Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel under the United States Constitution The purpose of Miranda is to protect citizens from incriminating themselves as a result of police interrogation. In other words, it keeps people from giving the police a coerced confession under police interrogation. In order for Miranda to apply, three elements must be met that will trigger the reading of your Miranda rights: 1) you must be in custody; 2) you must be interrogated and 3) the interrogation must be performed by police or an agent of the state.

In a DUI context, a traffic stop typically does not consitute custodial interrogation for purposes of Miranda. In other words, a traffic stop is not an arrest. Under Pennsylvania law and the laws of the United States Constitution a DUI stop is typically considered an investigative detention. This means when you are pulled over for suspicion of DUI, the police may ask you whatever they want without reading you rights. They may even ask you to step out of the vehicle and ask you to perform sobriety tests. If you think about it, it makes sense. Think of it this way: "the police are allowed to talk to people without reading them rights as long as the citizen is not under arrest." However, an investigative detention may elevate to a custodial detention if the police officer's behavior becomes coercive, threatening, or forceful or detains you for a too long a period of time.

If you are pulled over and a potential DUI defendant, this is where you have to be smart and live by this rule. NEVER TALK TO POLICE AND BE A WITNESS AGAINST YOURSELF. Simply decline any conversation with the police and decline sobriety testing.

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