Sobriety checks and Miranda Rights

Sobriety checks and Miranda Rights

We all know the Miranda rights: You have the right to remain silent; anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law; you have the right to an attorney; if you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you. These rights protect you from giving evidence against yourself that may then be used to find you guilty of a criminal charge. But when you are driving at night and you come to a sobriety checkpoint. How do your Miranda Rights apply?

Driving is a privilege, not a right. You hold a driver’s license because you can show that you are fit to drive. Every time you operate a motor vehicle, you must be fit to drive. The police must keep the streets safe for all motorists. Only drivers who are fit to drive can drive. People who are under the influence of alcohol are not fit to drive. Thus, the police stop drunk drivers to keep them from hurting themselves, hurting others, and destroying property. The problem of drunk driving and the high rates of death and injury that result have made sobriety checkpoints a necessity.

At sobriety checkpoints, the police do not need to see you weaving on a road to stop you. They can shine a flashlight to check if your eyes are bloodshot or if you have alcohol on the seat or floor of your car. They can check if you smell like alcohol, ask you for your license and registration, and watch if your hands shake or if you are disoriented and uncoordinated when doing so. These are not violations of your Miranda rights because you are not yet under arrest.

If these signs are present, they can ask you to perform the field sobriety tests: point to your nose with your finger, walk heel to toe in a straight line, stay balanced while standing on one leg, etc. If you fail those tests, they can ask you to take the alcohol breath test. These are not violations of your Miranda rights either, because you are not yet under arrest.

Refuse to take the alcohol breath test, and they will note your refusal. This is evidence against you. You will be arrested, and this is when the police should inform you of your Miranda rights. Once arrested, they can take a blood or urine sample to confirm your blood alcohol level.

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