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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > June 2016 > State v. Hambrick, 2016 Ohio 3395

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State v. Hambrick, 2016 Ohio 3395

Question: Does an officer need to read Miranda rights to the driver of a vehicle prior to asking if the driver has any guns, knives, or drugs in the vehicle?

Quick Answer: Generally, no. An individual temporarily detained as part of a routine traffic or investigatory stop is ordinarily not “in custody” and would not be entitled to Miranda warnings.

Facts: Chillicothe Police Officer Short observed Hambrick inside a vehicle in a gas station lot and believed he was engaged in drug activity. Officer Short, who was familiar with Hambrick, checked his driving status and learned his license was suspended. Once Hambrick pulled out of the lot, Officer Short followed him in a marked cruiser and observed that Hambrick failed to properly signal a turn. The officer stopped Hambrick and informed him he did so for driving with a suspended license, the turn signal violation, and suspicious behavior at the gas station. Officer Short then asked Hambrick if he “had any drugs, knives, or guns in the vehicle?” Hambrick admitted he “had some weed.” Officer Short searched the vehicle and located marijuana and cocaine inside. Prior to trial, Hambrick filed a motion to suppress the evidence; it was denied. Hambrick was subsequently convicted of possession of drugs. On appeal, he argued the officer’s questioning violated his Miranda warnings. The appeals court noted from the outset that in order for Miranda to apply, a person must be in custody and subjected to interrogation. The court established the statements were made within the first moments of the encounter, the questioning was routine and non-threatening, and Officer Short displayed no actions that would lead a reasonable person to believe his freedom had been curtailed to a degree associated with a formal arrest. Therefore, Hambrick was unable to demonstrate he was “in custody” when he made the incriminating statement.

Keep in Mind: After placing someone under arrest, Miranda is only required if the officer is going to ask questions designed to illicit incriminating responses.