Do the Miranda warnings count if the suspect is drunk?
You’ve been pulled over for a DUI. After running you through the routine field sobriety and breath tests, the officer arrests you. You think he says that your blood-alcohol level is twice the legal limit. He handcuffs you and places you in the back of his patrol vehicle. He then advises you of your Miranda rights and begins to question you. But you’re not sure you understand the rights as he explains them—you are, in all likelihood, drunk. If you talk, will your statements be admissible in court?
It depends. In order for a post-advisement-of-Miranda statement to be admissible in the prosecution’s case in chief, the defendant must have waived his or her rights “voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently.” A statement is involuntary if, for example, the cops torture the suspect into it. By the same token, a statement is typically inadmissible if the defendant is too drunk or high to understand the Miranda warnings—in that situation, the decision to waive them isn’t a product of free will. But courts aren’t necessarily in a rush to conclude that a statement was involuntary because the defendant was too inebriated; if there are objective indicators that he or she understood the rights, the statement will probably come into evidence. (State v. Lloyd, 22 Or. App. 254 (1975), Crain v. State, 736 N.E.2d 1223 (Ind. 2000); see also U.S. v. Henderson, 553 F.3d 1163 (8th Cir. 2009).)