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When are Miranda rights required in a Massachusetts DUI arrest?

As a Massachusetts OUI Lawyer, one question that is often asked is what happens if a police officer failed to read Miranda rights. In an OUI case, police officers are allowed to ask routine questions without reading Miranda.  A recent case from the Woburn District Court demonstrates when Miranda rights are required in an OUI case.  In the case of Commonwealth v. Vellucci, decided in August of 2020, the defendant was charged with OUI out of the Woburn District Court, second offense.  He filed a motion to suppress arguing that statements he made to the officer during field sobriety tests should be suppressed.  The motion was denied and he was convicted after trial of a Second Offense OUI.  He appealed his conviction to the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

What were the pertain facts of this OUI trial from Woburn District Court

In this case, the defendant got out of his car after being stopped for an alleged traffic infraction.  The defendant appeared frustrated and angry and was waiving his arms.

He yelled something that the officer could not understand.  The officer told the defendant to get back into his car.  The defendant continued to walk toward the officer.  The officer told the defendant that he was going to place him in handcuffs for his own safety.

The officer pat frisked the defendant and confirmed that he was not carrying any weapons.

The defendant said he was a CPA, stated what happened, what is going on, I am a CPA went out to celebrate the end of tax season with accountants.

The defendant also stated that he had a couple of beers and made a mistake.  The officer observed that the defendant was unsteady on his feet, smiled of alcohol and had slurred speech.

The officer asked the defendant if he would perform field sobriety tests; he agreed and the officer took off the cuffs.

After the officer performed the HGN test, the defendant stated that he was a good guy and made a mistake.  After the 9 step walk and turn, the defendant stated that the officers were out to get him and he was just having a good time.

The defendant was placed under arrest after he refused further field sobriety tests.

The defendant argued that the motion to suppress should have been allowed because he was effectively under arrest when he was put in handcuffs.

The Appeals Court found that Miranda was not required that the officer’s safety concerns could have temporarily justified the defendant being put in handcuffs.

The Appeals Court found that under the circumstances the use of handcuffs temporarily did not transfer the stop into a custodial interrogation as normally traffic stops are not custodial.

The Appeals Court sited the decision in Berkemer v. McCarthy, 468 U.S. 420 (1984) holding that traffic stops are not custodial for the purpose of Miranda even though the driver is not free to leave.

When is a person in Custody for Miranda Purposes:

The Massachusetts Courts apply a four prong test to determine if someone is in custody under Miranda.  The Court considers:

  1. The place of the interrogation
  2. Whether the officers have conveyed to the person being questioned any belief or opinion that the person is a suspect;
  3. The nature of the interrogation
  4. Whether the person was free to end the interview.

The Appeals Court found that the factors did not show custody:

1, everything happened on a public street

2.  There was no evidence that officer communicated to the defendant that he was a suspect

3.  The officer told the defendant he restrained him for safety reasons

4.  The defendant was not immediately arrested

Even though the motion was denied in this case, it is still important to try to suppress statements based on Miranda in OUI cases. I have had success suppressing statements after the field sobriety tests and did have a case similar to the Vellucci case where the judge did suppress all statements because the defendant was put in handcuffs and ordered to the ground at gunpoint.  Other district court judges may have a different view of the facts as motions can turn on small differences in cases.  If you want to learn more about current issues in OUI defense follow me on Facebook At DelSignore Law.

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