DUI and Miranda Warnings

On February 10, 2008, I posted an article entitled "When Are Miranda Warnings Required?"  In that article, I stated that the police are required to give a person Miranda warnings only when that person is in custody and is being interrogated by the police.  After writing that article, I came across a recent Florida case which seems to contradict the United States Supreme Court's decision in Miranda v. Arizona.

In State v. Busciglio, Mr. Busciglio was arrested for DUI and then taken to a police facility where he was asked to blow into a machine in order to determine the amount of alcohol in his breath.  Mr. Busciglio refused to blow and later argued that he had the right to consult with a lawyer before deciding whether to blow.

It would seem that Mr. Busciglio had a good argument because he was clearly in custody and because it would appear he was being interrogated by the police when the officer asked him whether he would agree to blow into the machine.

However, the Florida appellate court that decided his case rejected Mr. Busciglio's argument.  The Court said that whenever a person exercises his privilege to drive in Florida he thereby impliedly consents to give a sample of his breath if requested to do so by a police officer.  That being the case, "[a]sking a defendant to comply with conduct he has no 'right' to refuse does not invoke any degree of coercion associated with impermissible interrogation."  And because Mr. Busciglio was not being interrogated when asked to blow into the machine, the Court ruled, the police officer was not required to give him Miranda warnings at that particular moment.

Although the United States Supreme Court's decision in Miranda v. Arizona appears straightforward at first blush, cases like Mr. Busciglio's demonstrate the confusion that often surrounds the day-to-day application of the Miranda decision.

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