By Elizabeth Wittemyer, Esq.
Having a police officer contact you can be a frightening situation. It
is important to know what are your rights and responsibilities if this
should occur. It can be very uncomfortable to exercise your rights as
it goes against our natural inclination to respond to questions, especially
from authority figures like a police officer. Being aware of your rights,
especially your right to silence, can protect you in a criminal investigation.
In general, a police officer always has the right to ask you for identification.
Once your identity is established, a police officer will then start to
ask you questions in order to investigate their “reasonable suspicion”
that a crime has been committed. This is where you must exercise your rights.
DO NOT LIE. People often think they only have two choices: confess or lie.
You have the right to remain silent - use it. Remember, the constitution
provides you an ABSOLUTE right to not incriminate yourself. So, when an
officer is questioning you the answer is not to lie or to confess, rather
it is to exercise your right to not incriminate yourself and maintain
silence. Politely decline to answer questions. Don’t argue, don’t
react and don’t complain. Be respectful with the officer, this will
help you in many ways, but protect yourself at all times.
If after exercising your right to silence the officer asks that you step
out of the car during a traffic stop, do so but again do not incriminate
yourself. Roadside maneuvers are VOLUNTARY and are designed to gather
evidence against you. If you are placed under arrest, maintain silence.
In a driving under the influence investigation, you do have to consent
to a chemical test of your breath or blood in order to avoid serious implications
on your driving privileges, however this takes place after an arrest and
is called an “express consent” chemical test. Many people
confuse the voluntary roadside maneuvers with the express consent chemical
test. Police officers will exploit that confusion by giving the advisements together.
It is very important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after the
arrest. The earlier we can start working on your behalf, and the least
amount of evidence you provide, the better. To learn more about your rights,
contact our experts in our Criminal Law Group to assist you in your defense