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Massachusetts Has Damaged DUI Suspects' Rights

Last year, the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts ruled that police do not have to give a Miranda warning to suspected drunk drivers before they take a breathalyzer test. The state’s highest court determined that the chemical breath test is not a “critical part” of the criminal investigation of a suspected drunk driver and, as such, does not offer protections against self-incrimination engrained in the state and federal constitutions.

The court left intact a 27-year-old legal precedent since a 1989 SJC ruling known as Commonwealth v. Brazelton. In that ruling, the SJC determined asking a driver to perform a chemical breath test did not prompt self-incrimination concerns, and law enforcement did not have to provide Miranda warnings. The court states that the written notice police give to suspected drunk drivers who are deciding whether to take a breathalyzer test is warning enough, and Miranda warnings are not required.

Miranda Warnings & DUI Laws in California

In California, police do not need to read you your Miranda rights when you are initially pulled over for DUI. When a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence, he or she will conduct a DUI investigation before determining to make an arrest or not.

A DUI investigation involves the following:

  • Questioning and observation to determine signs of intoxication
  • Field sobriety tests
  • A preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) breath test

Since an arrest hasn’t been officially made, questions during DUI investigations are often not considered to be “custodial interrogations.” Hence, the officer generally does not need to read you the Miranda warning.

However, it is important to understand that—even though the officer will not have read you your Miranda rights—you do have the right to remain silent during the DUI investigation.

If you were recently arrested for a DUI in Ventura County, contact The Law Offices of Robert F. Sommers and schedule a free consultation today.