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Pennsylvania v. Bruder


An officer observed a motorist driving erratically and ignoring a red light. He stopped the defendant’s vehicle. After smelling alcohol and observing the defendant’s stumbling movements, the officer administered field sobriety tests to the defendant, including asking the defendant to recite the alphabet. The officer inquired about the defendant’s use of alcohol. The defendant stated that he had been drinking. The defendant also failed the sobriety tests. The officer arrested the defendant, placed him a police car, and administered his Miranda warnings.


Whether the defendant was in custody at the time he was asked if he had been drinking?


No. Ordinary traffic stops do not involve custody for purposes of the requirement to give Miranda warnings.


The rule of Berkemer v. McCarty, that ordinary traffic stops do not involve custody for the purposes of Miranda, governs this case. Although unquestionably a seizure, this stop had the same non-coercive aspects as the Berkemer seizure: a single police officer asking the defendant a modest number of questions and requesting him to perform simple tests in a location visible to passing motorists. The defendant was not in custody and, therefore, the officer did not have to administer Miranda warnings before questioning.


488 U.S. 9, 109 S. Ct. 205 (1988)

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