Updated: Jun 3, 2021
"Do I have to answer questions if I'm pulled over by the police?" This is one of the most common, but also most important questions asked. The short answer is, no; you have a constitutional right not to answer questions. And your refusal to ask questions can never be used against you. However, refusing to answer questions can be difficult and intimidating. Here are a few suggestions that might help if you are pulled over or questioned by the police.
If a police officer pulls you over and asks you if you have been drinking, he is fishing for an incriminating response, and anything you say can and will be used against you to build a criminal case. Many people feel like they need to answer questions, or the police officer will assume they are guilty. This is a common fear, but the reality is, the officer is almost always fishing for clues to help prove your guilt. If an officer pulls you over and asks, “Have you been drinking tonight?” my suggestion would be to remain calm, and tell the officer, “My lawyer advised me not to answer any questions. Am I free to go?” If an officer pulls you over and asks, “Where are you coming from tonight?” Your response should be, “My lawyer advised me not to answer any questions. Am I free to go?”
This response preserves your constitutional rights and helps to determine if you are being detained, because a police officer, at a minimum, needs reasonable suspicion that a crime is, was or is about to be committed, to detain you. If the officer does not have reasonable suspicion, any statements or evidence obtained could potentially be suppressed. Unless you are the victim of a crime or a witness to a crime, answering questions will almost never help. Denials or any explanation you give can later be used against you, but your right to remain silent cannot. If you refuse to answer questions, that refusal can never be used against you in a court of law, because you have an absolute right to remain silent. You can’t be arrested for refusing to answer questions. If a police officer has probable cause to arrest you, they are going to do it whether you answer questions or not. Answering questions can only provide additional evidence to help build a criminal case but refusing to answer questions can never be used as evidence of guilt. Don’t give away your rights.