Understanding Miranda in the context of a Michigan OWI case

Whenever anyone is arrested in a television crime show, police are heard "Mirandizing" the suspect. This happens so often that chances are good that everyone with access to such shows or who goes out in public likely knows how the warning goes.

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. If you the right to an attorney during questioning. If you can't afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you." There are more lines to the statement, but that's enough for the purposes of this blog.

Now, here's a question. How often have you heard the Miranda warning used in cases of suspected drunk driving in Michigan? The answer is probably never. The fact is that there are specific conditions under which the Miranda warning must be used and they are:

  1. The suspect must be formally in police custody.
  2. The individual must be under interrogation.

If those two conditions are not in play, it may be up to the individual officer to decide whether to Mirandize. And in most OWI cases, they aren't.

In most instances where drunk driving is suspected, police have simply pulled a driver over in a traffic stop. In the course of that, an officer might ask some probing questions such as, have you been drinking? How much? The officer might also put you through the various field sobriety tests that are commonly used.

Note that up to this point the driver has not been in formal custody. But evidence has been collected through police questioning and the various tests. No Miranda warning was required. But all the information provided may still be used against you in a court of law.

You do have all the rights as spelled out under Miranda if you are stopped for drunk driving. But as you can see, it's up to you to know and exercise them. And when faced with such charges, consulting an attorney is a right that should be leveraged.

Source: FindLaw, " DUI Arrests and Miranda Rights: What You Need to Know," Daniel Taylor, July 10, 2014