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Berkemer v. McCarty


After observing the defendant’s car weave, a police officer stopped him and asked him to get out of the car. Noticing that the defendant was having difficulty standing, the officer concluded that he would arrest the defendant for drunk driving, though he did not communicate this intent to the defendant. The defendant failed field sobriety tests, whereupon the officer asked if he had been using intoxicants. The defendant replied that he had consumed two beers and had smoked marihuana a short time before. The officer formally arrested the defendant. At no time did the officer provide the defendant with Miranda warnings during this encounter.


Whether the defendant was in custody for Miranda purposes?


No. Routine traffic stops do not create a government-dominated atmosphere Miranda is designed to protect against.


A person subjected to custodial interrogation by police officers is entitled to Miranda warnings. However, roadside questioning of a motorist detained pursuant to a routine traffic stop does not constitute “custodial interrogation.” The Miranda warnings are applicable as soon as a suspect’s freedom of action is curtailed to a degree associated with formal arrest. An officer’s unarticulated plan to arrest a motorist and charge him with a traffic offense does not amount to custody. The relevant inquiry was whether a reasonable person in the motorist’s position would have believed he or she was in custody.


468 U.S. 420, 104 S. Ct. 3138 (1984)

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