Most people know that when you are arrested the police are required to give you the Miranda warnings before they ask you questions. Its so much a part of our culture that the warnings on this card can likely be recited, from memory, by just about anyone over the age of 13:
You have these rights even before you are arrested. You just don’t think about it. In fact, most people don’t think about it even after police read these rights to them. That’s because you have heard it so often the meaning has completely vanished and it is just a stream of words, like the Pledge of Allegiance, or the Lord’s Prayer. (I know all of these mean a lot to many people, but when was the last time you really thought through these words and their meaning?)
In California, you are not required to perform tests (like Field Sobriety Tests), answer questions (like “have you been drinking?” “where are you coming from?” “do you know why I pulled you over?”), or do more than comply with the lawful commands of a sworn peace officer. When you do so, you are helping the police convict you of a crime.
The police are NOT on a ‘quest for the truth’. Once they have decided you committed a crime, they are on a hunt for evidence to convict you. If you are guilty, they don’t need your help; facts speak for themselves. If you are innocent, your words can make you appear guilty because the police are only listening for the words that support their decision that you committed a crime. Other words you say will be discounted as self-serving, misquoted to support the theory of guilt, or completely ignored. Intentionally or not, the police officer will be focused on those things that support a conclusion of guilt.
If you are driving, you ARE required to consent to have your blood drawn, if you want to have a chance to avoid having your license suspended. This is done under the ‘Implied Consent’ law. But the police don’t get to take you to have your blood drawn if they don’t have probable cause to arrest you for suspicion of DUI; most of the time it is your words and actions on field sobriety tests, and not your driving, that give the officer probable cause for that arrest. Of course, implied consent only matters for your driving privilege, for a criminal conviction a different rule applies.
For the crime of DUI, and most other alleged crimes, the police cannot take evidence without your consent or a search warrant. The new rule on DUI investigations is important, and it is one that the courts in California are going to need years to sort out. For now, just understand that your rights to personal privacy include your blood, the contents of your home, and the information on your cell phone…if you don’t give the police your consent to access these private items.
In almost all criminal cases, the statements of the innocent defendant make the case for the prosecution. If the innocent simply remembered to remain silent, to ignore the techniques and threats of law enforcement, and to rely upon their constitutional rights, their liberty would much more often be preserved.
This post is intended for general information only and is not intended to address your specific situation. For more specific advice, you should contact a licensed competent professional in your jurisdiction. This document in no way creates or implies an attorney-client relationship between any reader and the Bromund Law Group or Matthew Bromund. If you require specific legal advice in California, please do not hesitate to contact the Bromund Law Group at 805.650.1100.