For those pursuing a legal education, one of the most commonly recognized undertakings are legal examination questions that throw every conceivable fact pattern at an aspiring lawyer. In many instances, the test questioning is of a ridiculous nature, never to actually occur within a real life setting. However, it is felt that by training students in the art of quickly analyzing a fact pattern full of various legal issues, the student will be best served with needed understanding. More specifically, a professor will be best able to assess a student’s comprehension as quickly as possible.
Recently, a current events fact pattern occurred that reminded me of these arduous test examinations only experienced within one’s legal education.
It seems that two members of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team were recently stopped pursuant to a stop for impaired driving. Apparently, the driver of the vehicle, allegedly without being questioned, blurted out that he was not drunk driving. In fact, he purportedly suggested, his vice of choice was Marijuana and that although he had smoked his possessed pot hours earlier, he was no longer high. Inarticulately mounting his legal defense supposedly without being prompted, he asserted to the cop that since he had not been drinking alcohol he saw no reason for any further examination as to a potential drunk driving charge against him.
While it is always wise to view with suspicion the recitation of events made by an arresting police officer, especially when targeting a noteworthy individual, it is a worthwhile exercise to provide a brief comment to reinforce why those questioned for any criminal offense need the consultation of legal counsel prior to uttering a word in their own legal defense.
Within the realm of dui defense practice the issue of Miranda advisals or self incrimination does not arise in nearly as many circumstances as other areas of potential crime. The reason being as expressed elsewhere is due to the reality that the most significant evidence mounted against one accused of impaired driving is most often that not relying upon the words expressed of a suspect. Most significantly, it is the alleged monitoring of driving activity, performance of impaired coordination testing and/or results of breath or blood testing that is most legally significant to a prosecutor in securing case convictions.
More to the point, the above referenced factors are based not on what a criminal suspect says, but what their performed actions and bodily evidence indicates.
However, in the case circumstances above, if one is to provide an unsolicited admission to a law enforcement officer in regard to the use of drugs that may have not otherwise have been determined from a breath test result for alcohol, one has opened themselves up to legal peril.
If the arresting officer’s account is to be believed, not only was the football player in question apparently ignorant on the law, but his inarticulate words stated in his own defense were so misguided as to lend creedance to a suggestion that he was in fact under the influence of drugs at the time of his vehicle stop.
The lesson to be learned once again is this; driving while high is the same as driving while intoxicated in Indiana. Once again, one does not need to be proven to have consumed alcohol to be convicted of dui. I personally believe that the term, “drunk driving” has been the biggest culprit in misleading the general public as to a seeming distinction between the use of alcohol versus drugs when attempting to understand impaired driving charges.
Had it not been for this NFL player’s words, it is possible that an on site portable breath test only suitable to detect the presence of alcohol would have allowed for the player to proceed on his way. However, once impairment through drugs is suspected, a resulting blood draw must commence so as to secure evidence to prove the presence of drugs. Having handed this officer the evidentiary means by which to find probable cause to proceed with an off site blood examination, this individual assured himself of future legal proceedings.
While miranda is not often a central point of discussion when attacking alleged dui allegations for the reasons stated above, if one is to voluntarily incriminate oneself without being questioned allegedly due to a misguided understanding of the law, even the best defense lawyer cannot always help you.