Is the Miranda Warning Required in Georgia When Stopped by an Officer?
Ted Morgan Law
Is the Miranda Warning required when a Georgia driver is stopped by a police officer? Generally speaking, the Miranda Warning is not required when an officer conducts preliminary questioning or field sobriety evaluations. McDevitt v. State, 286 Ga. App. 120 (2007). Miranda is invoked when a person is under arrest. As discussed above, whether the driver is under “arrest” is fact-sensitive. The legal question is whether a reasonable person would have believed that he or she was not free to leave. It is an objective test, asking whether the reasonable belief of an ordinary person under such circumstances and not the subjective belief or intent of the officer, would have believed he or she was permanently in custody. [Georgia courts have held that Miranda Warnings are not required before the officer makes a request that the driver submit to an Alco-Sensor “screening test” since the defendant was not yet in custody.] [Generally speaking, a motorist stopped for a traffic violation is not “in custody” and is therefore not entitled to Miranda Warnings prior to formal arrest.] Again, the test for determining whether the driver is “in custody” after a traffic stop is an objective test to be determined from the position of the driver. Even where the officer believed but did not communicate to the suspect that minor traffic violations could result in an arrest, the officer’s belief was not the test and had no bearing upon whether or not the suspect was in custody. The test is whether a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would have thought that the officer’s detention was permanent and not temporary. For example, a motorist stopped by an off-duty officer, for DUI, and not allowed to leave the scene pending arrival of an on-duty officer was determined to have been under arrest at the scene of the initial stop, and the failure of the officer to provide Miranda Warnings may result in suppression of admissions and conversations between the driver and the off-duty officer. Whether a driver is in “custody” following a traffic stop raises complicated statutory and constitutional questions beyond the scope of this article.