Georgia DUI Cases of Note

  

CRIDER v. STATE - A12A2414: The Gray-Areas of Miranda and Initial DUI Investigations

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Crider v. State (2013) - Georgia Court of Appeals

Terri Crider was pulled over for failure to maintain lane. When the officer made contact with Crider, he noticed the odor of alcohol on her breath, bloodshot and glassy eyes, and slightly slurred speech. Crider admitted to having been drinking and even said that she was not safe to drive. The officer asked if Crider would perform some field sobriety tests, and she said that “if [he] was going to give her a DUI, just to go ahead and take [me] to jail.” The officer declined the invitation and performed the horizontal gaze nystagmus (eye test) and walk-and-turn field sobriety tests, as well as a hand-held portable breath test. He then arrested Crider for DUI. During the investigation, at no time did the officer tell Crider she was under arrest, place her in handcuffs, or put her in the back of his vehicle. In a motion to suppress Crider contended that since she was not read her Miranda rights, the evidence gathered during the initial DUI investigation was obtained illegally. The trial court denied her motion, and Crider appealed. Citing State v. Pierce, 266 Ga. App. 233, 235 (1) (596 SE2d 725) (2004), Price v. State, 269 Ga. 222, 225 (3) (498 SE2d 262) (1998), and Turner v. State 233 Ga. App. 413, 415 (1) (a) (504 SE2d 229) (1998), the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling. 

In Pierce, the Court asserts that “Miranda warnings are not required while an investigating officer conducts preliminary questioning or field sobriety tests,” but after a suspect is arrested Miranda rights must be read if further questions and field sobriety tests are to be admissible. As defined in Price, “the test for determining whether a suspect is under arrest 'is whether a “reasonable person in the suspect's position would have thought the detention would not be temporary.”'” A “reasonable person,” as defined in Turner, is “one neither guilty of criminal conduct and thus overly apprehensive nor insensitive to the seriousness of the circumstances.” Finally, the court asserts that:

[a]bsent the officer making any statement that would cause a reasonable person to believe that he was under arrest and not temporarily detained during an investigation, the officer's "belief" that probable cause exists to make an arrest does not determine when the arrest is effectuated until the officer overtly acts so that a reasonable person would believe he was under arrest. Pierce, supra.

The sheer volume of analysis that the Court goes through to explain why a person detained for suspicion of DUI need not be informed of their right to an attorney, nor their right to remain silent, just goes to show the breadth and width of legal gray-areas involved in DUI investigations.

Cutting through the fog, the issue at hand is whether an officer is legally obligated to inform a DUI suspect of his or her rights before obtaining evidence that could lead to an arrest. It's important to note that suspects retain their Miranda rights whether informed of them or not. All field sobriety tests are voluntary and DUI suspects are not required to tell an officer they've been drinking, but Miranda warnings are specifically used only when someone is under arrest, and there isn't anything like the implied consent warning for field sobriety tests. The Court is technically right in that an officer is not required to give a Miranda warning during most pre- formal-arrest DUI investigations, but considering that the amount and depth of evidence required to make a DUI arrest is not objective, it's unclear at what point a “reasonable person” would decide if a detention is going to be temporary. When an officer's “belief” that probable cause exists qualifies him to detain a suspect and then gather evidence to validate his “belief” without supplying a Miranda warning, the arrest becomes self-fulfilling and Miranda is rendered meaningless. The decision reaches a similar result to Jones v. State (2013)



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