The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled in a Miranda rights case from Cleveland. The court says being questioned in the front seat of a police car is not the same as being interrogated while in custody.
In 2014, a Cleveland motorist nearly struck a state highway patrol car at night. The patrolman pulled him over, had him get in the front seat of the cruiser and asked how much alcohol he’d been drinking. The driver said he’d had four mixed drinks at a wedding.
At trial he asked to have that information suppressed, because the patrolman had not read him his Miranda rights first. A Cleveland municipal court judge and appeals court agreed.
But the Ohio Supreme Court overturned that decision 6-to-1. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote that the interaction did not amount to an in-custody interrogation, because the driver was asked only basic questions for a short period of time—and wasn’t handcuffed.
Justice William O’Neill dissented, writing that a reasonable person in the police car would not understand that they were free to leave.