Wrong. (For the most part.) There are times when you can be too drunk or high to knowingly waive your Miranda rights. Illinois criminal law allows for suppression of statements of a person if they are so “grossly intoxicated that she no longer has the capacity to waive her rights.” But the bar is high, pun intended.
You can’t just be smacked out or drunk. The law is clear that “Lesser degrees of intoxication or drug use go merely to the weight to be given to the confession.”
Think of “weight” as legal code for “value.” Evidence can vary from a lot of weight to none at all. At trial, the fundamental role of the Judge or the jury is to decide what “weight” or value to give the evidence. A skilled criminal defense attorney is able to convince them how to make that decision.So just because you’ve had some cocaine with those cocktails, that’s probably not going to be enough to suppress your statements. Maybe you would’ve never told your best friend his fiance sucks if you hadn’t been so drunk? You can’t take that back, everyone knows now. So will the police, and then the jury… if you spill the beans because you are wasted. Because intoxication alone is not enough, it’s gotta be severe.
The Illinois Supreme Court case established the “gross” intoxication standard in People v. Roy. The Court found the following clues of “gross” intoxication: swaying, being unsteady, having a strong odor of alcohol, confusion & repeating the word “what?” after being read each Miranda warning. The Court’s major focus was the defendant’s obvious confusion, due to his intoxication, when being read his Miranda warnings.
Taking the above facts and ruling, you would think that this type of motion to suppress is a common and successful tool for criminal defense lawyers. However, as the Court stayed, “[t]he test of whether intoxication alone will negate a waiver of rights presents a high bar.” The majority of cases reaching the appellate court do not find gross intoxication. At the trial court level, litigating this type of motion to suppress requires criminal defense expertise to be successful. Even then, the path is challenging.
The purpose of Miranda warnings is to ensure statements made by a defendant are voluntary. By informing you of your rights, you are given the choice to use them. But if you can’t understand them, how can you? If you are told you have a right to a criminal defense attorney and to remain silent but you think those are drink specials, how good are those warnings? When a person is “grossly” intoxicated, even giving Miranda warnings will not ensure a statement is voluntary. Whether or not you’re “grossly” intoxicated turns on a variety of factors.
Often, Courts tend to look at certain factors, such as:
- Timing of the warnings;
- Number of times the warnings were read;
- The Defendant’s balance, consciousness, and awareness of surroundings/circumstances;
- Ability to give detailed and intelligent responses;
There is no playbook or guideline to determine “gross” intoxication. That determination is made on what the law calls a “case by case basis.” That’s legal talk for “the facts of your particular case.” That’s where a skilled criminal defense lawyer comes in handy. With the right legal guidance, the facts of your case can become the defense for your case.
What about Blood Alcohol Concentration? (BAC) Take the case of People v. Hughes. In that case, the Defendant had a .25 BAC. That sounds pretty grossly intoxicated, doesn’t it? Nope. Despite that high BAC, his confession came in at trial. But consider the 2016 case of People v. Day. In that case, a .184 BAC was determined grossly intoxicated. In both cases, the Courts focused on evidence that showed whether or not defendants understood the Miranda warnings.
Point being: there is no BAC level where you become “grossly intoxicated.” On the day after the party, the Court gets the final word on who was hammered, sh** faced, or drunk “AF.”
At the end of the day, the major question is: does the evidence of a defendant's impaired condition clearly demonstrate that he lacked the capacity to knowingly waive his rights? If so, the is statements suppressed and inadmissible. If, it just goes to weight and is coming in.
Remember, it’s too difficult to talk to the police when you’re sober and too easy to think you want to talk to them when you’re drunk. Either way, you’re not helping yourself. Whether drunk and high on beer, crack, weed, or smack….or even just life, the best way to suppress a confession is to never give one and ask for a criminal defense lawyer. Remember your right to remain silent applies when you are drunk as well, at least that’s what my ex wife told me.
And while there is a way to get your statements suppressed because you were intoxicated, don’t pop a bottle just yet. The law wants you blacked out or even worse before it will let go of your statements. At Robert J. Callahan and Associates, we know criminal defense law better than the Irish know whiskey. While you maybe didn’t know what to say when you talked to the cops, we do. We combine that knowledge with a dedication to aggressive criminal defense litigation for all of our clients. If you’ve been arrested, or if your loved one is being questioned by the police, we are the criminal defense firm you need to call: 312-322-9000.