No, they do not have to read you your basic Miranda rights when a police officer pulls you over on a routine traffic stop. Breaking traffic laws (like speeding, running a red light, or a lane change violation) are considered to be infractions, not crimes (like a misdemeanor or felony). As a result, an officer need not apprise you of your constitutional right to remain silent or that you have the right to consult with an attorney.
But what happens if after you are pulled over for speeding, the police officer begins to question you about an unrelated matter? This can happen from time to time, for instance when an individual matches the description of someone who recently committed a crime nearby in the same general area. But if the officer, after issuing a traffic ticket, decides to ask you questions about anything else, then it is incumbent upon the officer to read you your Miranda rights.
For instance, let’s say you are pulled over, and the policeman writes you a St. Louis speeding ticket. But then he orders you out of the car, and starts asking you questions about a robbery that took place near your present location. At this point, the officer must give recite the Miranda warnings. This is because you are clearly in his custody, and are therefore unable to leave at will. But let us assume that the officer does not in fact read you your rights, and continues to ask you questions about the aforementioned robbery. In this kind of situation, any statement you make will most likely not be allowed as evidence, because such statements were taken in violation of your Miranda rights.
Your right to remain silent, and have any attorney present when questioning does occur, is about as fundamental to our system of laws as you can get. If this right did not exist, then anything you happened to say or do could be used against you in a court of law to try and prove that you committed some crime. It is what separates our way of life from other parts of the world. When a police officer begins to question you about an incident, or crime, or whatever, they are not going to ask about who you voted for in the last election; they are not going to ask if you are a conservative or a liberal; and they are not going to ask if you have strong moral values. They are going to try and determine if your responses to their questions make you a suspect (and therefore subject to arrest). This means that the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the US Constitution apply to us all, because anyone can be wrongly accused of a crime, or have their rights violated (regardless of the color of your skin).
The experienced St. Louis criminal defense lawyers at Brinkman & Alter, LLC have been assisting people with their legal issues for years. Our team of attorneys wants to make sure that you rights are protected, that you understand all of your options, and that you feel secure knowing that we will stand by your side from beginning to end. The initial consultation is free of charge. Call today to learn more.