DC DUI Lawyer on the Right to Remain Silent

Owner and Founding Attorney Joseph Scrofano discusses the importance of exercising your right to remain silence. It is one of our most cherished and fundamental rights. The police, court, and government cannot lawfully hold it against you. We hear it in the movies and see it on television. It is one of our fundamental rights under the constitution. The two most important things you can do in any police interaction are: (1) show respect and cooperate with the officer; and (2) assertively yet respectfully assert your rights. It may sound contradictory but you should even say the words: I am asserting my right to silence. People often ask whether they should answer questions that police officers ask. And a common misconception out there is that your case will get dismissed if the officer fails to read your Miranda rights.

Should I answer police questions?

Police will often try to get incriminating information from you during a traffic stop or other encounter. You should be aware that they are usually not acting with your best interest in mind. It is the job of police officers to gather evidence and make arrests based on probable cause. You may find yourself in a sticky situation where the police do not quite have enough evidence to get a warrant for your arrest. In those situations, police will often try to get a suspect to answer questions to get the last piece of evidence they need to get a warrant. Sometimes giving police information by answering questions may directly lead to an arrest. For example, by admitting to a police officer you drank alcohol prior to driving may give the officer probable cause to make a DUI arrest.

Having said that, in some circumstances it may make sense to talk to the police, cooperate, and answer questions. However, you should only do that after consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer and you should never do it without your attorney present.

Will my case get dismissed if the police don’t read me my rights?

The answer to that question is no. The most you can hope for is getting any incriminating statements suppressed if the police violated your Fifth Amendment rights. The Supreme Court has ruled that suppression of statements is the appropriate remedy for Fifth Amendment right to silence and right to attorney violations. Even in those cases, suppression is not guaranteed. Often judges will rule that certain statements made before the arrest do not require Miranda warnings because the person was not “in custody” at the time of the statements.

When do DC police Mirandize suspects?

In most arrests, Metropolitan Police Officers do not read people their rights. In fact, most misdemeanor offenses will not cause MPD officers to read people their rights. In addition, DC police never read people their rights during DUI investigations or other traffic related arrests. In some domestic violence cases, the police will try and interrogate a suspect and in most felonies they will actually read people their rights. Usually, though, in the interrogation, they will try to lie, trick, and manipulate the suspect into admitting incriminating facts.

If you or a loved one find yourselves under investigation or facing a criminal charge, contact Scrofano Law PC for a full case evaluation. Our attorney have experience fighting criminal charges and investigations in DC and Northern Virginia. We specialize in DC DUI cases, hit and run offenses, solicitation or prostitution cases, gun offenses, drug cases, record sealing and expungement, underage drinking/fake ID cases, assault crimes, misdemeanors, and serious felony charges in DC Superior Court, DC District Court, Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax.