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But your Honor, he was Polite & Cooperative

So, you get arrested for DUI/DWI in Maryland, what do you do? The trial Judge may ask the arresting police officer if you were “polite and cooperative” and the officer’s response can, in some instances, play a role in what the Judge does with you. However, what does this really mean?

If you were charged with a more serious crime than DUI you would know that you have rights, Miranda rights that is and hopefully you would know to stay quiet and say nothing until you had the benefit of sage wisdom of counsel. However, in DUI arrests, the Miranda warnings are rarely imparted upon suspects. Is that legal you ask? Well, in a word, yes. It’s legal. Reason: Miranda warnings are not a requirement for a legal arrest. They are a requirement for the police to gain admissible information following a legal arrest.

Thus, in the DUI DWI scenario, the I/O or investigating officer is perfectly within her rights to arrest you and never give you the Miranda warnings. However, there are two things you want to know. One: after you are actually arrested (handcuffed) anything she asks you then requires the Miranda warnings or your response is not admissible. Two: the police typically ask you all the damning questions prior to the actual arrest (ie. the handcuffs). They can do that. If they gather oral evidence against you prior to the arrest, no Miranda warnings are necessary at all as the courts have determined that you are not arrested and therefore don’t need said advice.

Getting back to polite and cooperative. The police have a job to do just like everybody else. Moreover, a good portion of the police out there have feelings too, thus being polite to the police officers is a good idea. It will make the transaction go easier that night and it may subsequently help in court. However, cooperative strikes me as a strange and different concept. If a Defendant were charged with a serious crime, would that Defendant be expected to be “cooperative” and make incriminating statements which will then lead directly to his conviction? I should hope not, that’s why we have Miranda warnings. So why is DUI different then any other offense? A DUI suspect faces very serious and permanent consequences. The police and the government must meet their burden and prove the charge just like any other offense. Being “cooperative” and making incriminating statements to the police, such as those darn field sobriety tests is NEVER a good idea. Many cases may be won or lost based solely on what a suspect has done or told the arresting police officer.

Bottom Line: It’s important to be a gentleman or a lady, ie. be courteous, not to scream and yell, kick the interior of the car, threaten, etc. Why wouldn’t you be? Butting heads with the officers on the street is not a good idea. You will lose that battle. However, “cooperative” to the extent of giving the state any evidence that it will then use to convict you in court, please! The government can either prove its case against you or it can’t. But it’s sure not your job to help convict yourself and I hope that you will not assist in that endeavor.