The Truth About Miranda Rights and Louisiana DWI Stops

When the police have you in custody, they can’t ask you questions without reading your Miranda rights. That’s the right to remain silent, the right to have an attorney, etc. as you’ve heard a thousand times on TV. If they fail to read you your rights, the law often prevents them from using anything you said against you in a court of law.

One big exception is in DWI stops.

Miranda Rights in DWI Stops Apply After Arrest

Louisiana courts have consistently ruled that Miranda rights in a DWI stop generally only apply after you’re arrested (placed in cuffs). The reason is that you have the right to refuse a field sobriety test.

That’s not to say there are no consequences for refusing a test. You will likely lose your license if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test. Refusing to take other types of tests doesn’t violate the implied consent law, but you could still be charged with DWI if the police have other evidence.
What the courts are saying is that since you’re technically free to “leave” the test by refusing to take it, the police haven’t placed you in custody by asking you to take the test. That means they don’t need to read you your rights.

Miranda Rights and DWI Checkpoints

Especially around Mardi Gras and other big events known for encouraging drinking, the police set up DWI checkpoints around New Orleans. Your rights are also limited at these checkpoints. Like DWI stops, the police do not have to read you your Miranda rights prior to an arrest.
You do have to provide identification, and the implied consent law imposes penalties if you refuse a breathalyzer test if you’re arrested on suspicion of DWI. However, you don’t need to answer any other questions, and we recommend that you don’t.

You can learn more about what to do when stopped by the police.

DWI Stops and Searches

You never have to consent to a search at a DWI stop or DWI checkpoint. Unlike a breathalyzer test, this is not a condition of having your driver’s license.

Nothing good can ever come out of a search no matter what the police tell you. Either they’ll find more evidence to use against you or nothing will change.

You should always refuse to give your consent to a search. In some situations, the police may be able to search your car anyway. One is if they see an open container of alcohol in plain view. Another is if you’ve already been arrested. They might say something like “I already have probable cause to search your car, do you mind if I search it?”

No matter what, tell them you don’t consent. If they didn’t actually have the ability to search your car, giving consent waives your right to challenge that search in court.

When Your Miranda Rights Kick In After a DWI Arrest

Once you’re under arrest, the police have to read you your rights. You may think that they’ve already made their case, but if they ask questions like how much you had to drink or when your last drink was, they’re trying to make their case even stronger.

It’s important to report any potential Miranda violations to your attorney, because other DWI evidence may be thrown out due to important constitutional safeguards. This might include things like a not having cause for the original stop, a bad search, or problems with the field sobriety test. If the police lose some of the evidence, your statements could be the difference between them making their case or not.

To learn more about your Miranda rights and how to beat a DWI charge, contact our office for a free case review now.