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Miranda Warnings and DUI Arrests

The routine DUI stop in Palm Beach County, Florida results in the suspected driver being asked many questions. The driver may not have had the privilege of Miranda, the driver’s right to a lawyer before answering any of the police officer’s questions. Is this okay? Is this legal? What other obstacles am I facing as a suspected DUI driver in Palm Beach County, Florida? As the suspected DUI driver, can I get information and the field sobriety tests that I provided to law enforcement suppressed or thrown out? How does this work?

The leading case on the issue of suppressing what a driver tells a investigating police officer, who elicits information from the suspected dui driver without the protection of one’s Miranda warnings, comes from the U.S. Supreme court decision in Pennsylvania v. Muniz, 496 U.S. 582 (1990). The U.S. Supreme court reasoned that a criminal defendant, later expanded to a suspected DUI driver, when asked his name, address, height, weight, eye color, date of birth, and current age at the booking center and later at a DUI stop was Constitutional and outside of Miranda rights and privileges.

The Justices however did narrow the scope of what can be used outside of Miranda warnings, to basically only include those questions that secure the biographical data necessary to complete booking or pre-trial service of law enforcement or the courts. However, when a suspected DUI driver is asked questions that will elicit an incrimination response, then the protection of Miranda must be administered by law enforcement at the scene of the stop or at the sheriff station.

Routine questions by law enforcement officers at or after a DUI stop, like where were you coming from? What did you drink? How much do you drink? Do you feel the effects of the alcohol? When was the last time you ate? Are the questions being asked by law enforcement, of the suspected DUI driver, to elicit incriminating responses? Before these answers can come into evidence and be used against the suspected DUI driver, the questions must be disinfected by the Miranda warnings or else the incriminating answers will be suppressed or thrown out by the trial judge. See State v. Burns, 661 So. 2d 882 (Fla. 5th DCA 1995).

What about the roadside sobriety tests that the suspected DUI driver preformed which are standard in Palm Beach County, Florida? Like the HGN Test? The finger to nose test? The walk the line test? The heel to toe test? The tilt your head back and recite the alphabet test? Can I get those tests suppressed or thrown out because Miranda was not read to me by the DUI sheriff or police officer, before I did those silly tests? The answer is a case by case scenario, but it is clear that the lack of Miranda warnings is not the principle of law to have the field sobriety test suppressed or thrown out in a DUI trial. The Florida Supreme Court reasoned that Miranda warnings do not apply to roadside sobriety tests. See Morris v. State, 988 So. 2d. 120 (5th DCA 2008); and Burns Id. at 848, citing to Occhicone v. State, 570 So. 2d 902 (Fla. 1990). But roadside test can be suppressed or thrown out for other reasons besides the lack of Miranda warnings.

Field sobriety test administered by law enforcement officers at a suspected DUI scene, fall into the category of physical evidence and are recognized as such, and must adhere to the Schmerber standards.  See Schmerber v. California, 384 757 (U.S.1966). As a Schmerber principle, the suspected driver may refuse to conduct any field sobriety test requested of him or her at the DUI scene. But what if the driver preforms the test, can the driver have the results and video of the test suppressed or thrown out? Yes!

There are many reasons why field sobriety test can be suppressed or thrown out by the trial court. Following on the reasoning of Schmerber, examples of why field sobriety test may be suppressed or thrown out; is if the officer misstates the law or misinforms the driver about his or her rights then the field sobriety tests will be suppressed. See State v. Holowicki, 15 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 792 (Fla. 17th Cir. Ct. May 19, 2008).  If the officer goats the suspected driver into believing that the suspected DUI driver would lose his license, if the driver did not perform the field sobriety test, then the field sobriety test will be thrown out. See State v. Lewinson, 6 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 656 (Fla. Broward Cty. Ct. July 26, 1999). There are numerous reasons, too many to mention here, why filed sobriety test can be suppressed or thrown out.

If you have been arrested for DUI and need legal help, contact West Palm Beach Criminal Attorney Andrew D. Stine. Palm Beach DUI Attorney, Andrew D. Stine, has been trying DUI cases, only defending drivers and never prosecuting them, for well over a decade. With a proven pre-trial motion practice on issues like field sobriety tests, unlawful stops, lack of reasonable suspicion to ask a driver to preform field sobriety test or provided a breath sample and appeals from dui convictions, West Palm Beach DUI lawyer, Andrew D. Stine, has provided tough representation for those accused of DUI. Remember, Hire Stine or do the Time.

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