Written by: Christopher Yotz
I’ve heard this question several times over the years. I think this may be another myth perpetuated by Hollywood. Just because you did not receive the Miranda Warnings does not mean that the criminal case against you must be dismissed based on that fact alone. However, there may be issues in the case against you that an attorney can use based on this fact which could lead to some evidence being barred from use at trial. If enough, or the right parts, of the evidence is barred then this could lead to a dismissal of some or all of the criminal charges.
In a brief nutshell, the Miranda Warning is only necessary if: 1. you are arrested, 2. the police question you, and 3. the government wants to use what you say as a result of those questions against you. If any of these factors are missing then the lack of a Miranda Warning may not matter.
During a DWI stop or other criminal arrest/investigation there are times when you may be under arrest and must have the Miranda Warning read to you before a solicited statement could be used against you. And, there are other times that it isn’t necessary.
Let’s use my favorite example of a DWI stop here in good ole Kansas City, Missouri. A Kansas City police officer stops you for a traffic violation. When the officer walks up to your window he (I’m going to use the pronoun he but the officer could be a he or a she) asks if you know why he stopped you. An answer to this question could be used against you. The courts believe that at this time you may not be under arrest. Therefore, no Miranda Warning is necessary here.
We’ll keep going with the example above. Let’s say that the officer decides to put you through the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. These are the three tests that the NHTSA endorses for officers to use in order to show probable cause for a DWI arrest. (I’ll talk about these tests in another post later). After these tests the officer places you under arrest for DWI. Now, even the courts believe you are under arrest. But, when the officer helps you into the back seat of his car you typically still haven’t received the Miranda Warning. If at this point the officer asks you questions the answers may not be useable in court. However, let’s say you get scared and suddenly blurt out that you are sorry you are so drunk. Since this statement was not solicited by the officer it could be used against you.
Back at the station after the above DWI arrest example the officer should read you a list of questions about where you’ve been, what you’ve eaten, and what you’ve had to drink, etc. The very first part of this questionnaire is a list of the Miranda Warnings that the officer is required to read to you. At this point all the stars align and we have all three elements above; arrest, questions and (unfortunately) answers.
Considering all of the above, the short answer to the title of this post is; maybe. A criminal charge might be dismissed due to a lack of the Miranda Warning being given but only as a small part of the complicated whole. This is why you hire a lawyer to take a deep and long look at the case against you. Like I’ve said before on this site; you don’t have to hire me, but hire the best lawyer you can afford. This gives you the best shot at protecting your rights in a criminal case.