Imagine you are ordered into the front seat of a cruiser after a traffic stop. The average person would believe they are in police custody and not free to leave, right? And because you are in custody, the police cannot ask questions without advising you first of your Miranda Rights.
But this week, the Ohio Supreme Court held otherwise. The case, Cleveland v. Oles, arose from a traffic stop by an Ohio State Highway Patrol officer who had been monitoring traffic on Interstate 90 when Oles’ car cut across the median and almost struck the officer’s car. The officer proceeded to stop the vehicle and initiate a traffic stop. Oles told the officer he was returning from a wedding and the Officer detected the odor of alcohol. The officer asked Oles to step out of the vehicle and sit in the front seat of his patrol car. Once inside the car, the officer asked Oles how much he had to drink at the wedding and Oles told the officer he consumed 4 mixed drinks. Subsequently, the officer performed a field sobriety test and arrested Oles. At no time during the traffic stop was Oles read his Miranda Rights.
In the Municipal Court, Oles moved to suppress the statements made in the police car and the results of the field sobriety test, because he was never administered his Miranda Rights. The Court granted his motion and the Eighth District Court of Appeals agreed.
Ohio DUI and Custodial interrogation
The Ohio Supreme Court disagreed with both the Municipal Court and the Eighth District Miranda warnings are intended to inform individual’s of their rights when they are subject to the coercive pressures present during a custodial interrogation. The Supreme Court has described a custodial interrogation as “questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.” The relevant question in any situation is whether, given the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person would believe himself to be in police custody at the time of questioning. The Court held that sitting in the front seat of a patrol car was not a custodial interrogation, and therefore, did not require a Miranda Warning to be given. The Court held that Oles was sitting in the front seat of a patrol car in plain view for a short duration of time during a nonthreatening or intimidating conversation with the patrol officer.
I disagree strongly with this case. It allows officers, especially in D.U.I. cases, to obtain information from people who clearly believe they are in custody without advising them of their right to counsel and their right to remain silent. The better position is to speak with police as little as possible and surely not about alcohol consumption.
Ohio DUI Attorney
If you have a question regarding a D.U.I./D.W.I. matter, then do not hesitate contacting Central and Columbus, Ohio DUI attorney Joe Edwards at 614-309-0243.