Centre County DUI Case – Suppression of Admission to Drinking – Miranda Violation

Interrogation in Ambulance Leads to Suppression of Admission

Client was traveling at a very high rate of speed when he lost control and wrecked the car. Police responded to the scene, pulled Client from vehicle, handcuffed him, and walked him to an ambulance for medical treatment. When Client was in ambulance, the trooper stood at the door and prevented Client from leaving. The trooper then questioned Client about whether or not he had been drinking. Client admitted that he had consumed a few beers earlier. Client was then arrested for suspicion of DUI and taken to the hospital to have a blood draw. After the trooper received evidence of Client’s blood alcohol level, Client was charged with Driving Under the Influence and related offenses.

State College DUI attorney Jason S. Dunkle filed a pre-trial motion to suppress Client’s admission to drinking becuase the trooper’s questioning violated Client’s 5th Amendement rights, commonly referred to as Miranda rights. Miranda warnings must be given when a person is subjected to a “custodial interrogation”.  “Interrogation” means questioning from an officer that is likely to cause a person to admit to something. Questions like “did you drink” or “how much did you drink” are interrogations. The issue in this case was “custody.” A person is normally detained during a DUI investigation, but a detention is different from custody. Miranda warnings are not normally given during DUI stops. In this situation, because Client had been handcuffed, physically walked by the trooper to the ambulance, and the trooper stood guard to prevent Client from leaving the ambulance, the court agreed that Client was in “custody.”  Because Client was subjected to a “custodial interrogation,” the trooper was required to advise Client of his Miranda warnings. The trooper’s failure to advise Client violated Client’s 5th Amendment rights, so the judge suppressed Client’s admission to drinking.