Can Your Statements Be Used Against You If You Were Drunk Or High?

If you are intoxicated or on narcotics and you confess to a crime, can your confession be used against you in court? It depends. Here's what you should know.

Your Constitutional Rights And The Miranda Warning

When police officers have you in custody and are interrogating you, you have certain rights that are protected by the U.S. Constitution. The police are required to give you a reminder of those rights, in a statement that's known as your "Miranda warning." This warning reminds you that:

  • you have the right not to incriminate yourself (or "to remain silent") when questioned by police.
  • you have the right to have an attorney with you when questioned by the police.
  • the state will provide you with an attorney if you can't afford one.
  • you can invoke your rights and stop questioning at any time (even if you previously waived your rights).
  • whatever you say to the police can be used against you in court.

However, it's not enough for the police to just tell you your rights. They have to establish that you understand them. Usually, you'll be asked to sign a statement or state on a recording that you understand your rights. 

The reason that it's so important that the police establish your understanding of these rights is that, if you choose to waive them, and you make a confession or some other incriminating statements, you have to do so "intelligently and understandingly." Otherwise, everything you say can be barred from use in court by prosecutors.

Confessions And Incriminating Statements While Intoxicated Or On Narcotics

There are several factors that come into play when you make incriminating statements or a confession while you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs (including prescriptions). The mere fact that you were inebriated or high won't automatically cause a judge to agree that you were too impaired to understand what you were doing.

In most cases, the court will look at the total situation when deciding whether you were incapable of making a "knowing and intelligent" decision to keep talking to the police. The court may want to hear evidence that indicates:

  • if you were lucid and oriented to your surroundings.
  • the amount of drugs or alcohol in your system.
  • whether you understood that you were under arrest when you chose to keep talking.
  • if you have had previous dealings with the law (and presumably a better understanding of your rights).
  • your general intelligence level and education.
  • any other actions by the police that could be seen as coercive.
  • whether or not you were both in police custody (arrest) and being questioned at the time you made the statements.

Statements Made Outside The Scope Of Miranda

Keep in mind, that statements that you make prior to your arrest, or when you are not being interrogated, fall outside of the scope of the Miranda warnings. 

For example, if you are pulled over for drunk driving and you announce to the officer that you've "had a few shots of tequila" as soon as you roll down the window, that statement would most likely be allowed in court, since you were neither already under arrest nor being interrogated.

The same is true if the police officer walks up to your car and says to you, "Have you been drinking?" If you choose to answer the question, your statements will likely be admissible in court because you weren't under arrest when you made them.

Your Level Of Coherence When You Made Any Statements

If you made statements to the police that could be used to convict you while you were inebriated or under the influence of narcotics, talk to your attorney about your level of coherence at the time.

If you weren't coherent enough to understand the legal consequences of your actions, your attorney, like Cook Timothy A, can file a motion to suppress the information, and ask the court to keep the evidence from being used to convict you.

Never try to "go it alone" when you are facing criminal charges. Don't make any statements to the police without the advice of an attorney, or you can compound your problems. Contact a defense attorney today, in order to best protect your future.