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What should I/must I tell a police officer if I am stopped?

Last updated 6 years ago

With New Years Eve only days away, it's important to know what information you are required to give a police officer if you get pulled over while intoxicated.

You are required to provide the officer with your driver's license, automobile registration and proof of insurance, when requested. You are not required to answer other questions, especially questions regarding your sobriety, where you have been or where you are going. Officers are trained to engage suspects in conversation in order to monitor their responses. They monitor speech pattern to determine if there is alcohol on the breath or if the speech is slurred. They record the appearance of the suspect to see if the suspect is disheveled and whether they are able to locate their wallet and related paperwork. Your dialogue with the police officer may be limited by you. A suspect may lawfully and politely choose not to answer any questions other than those regarding his identify. If a suspect chooses to answer some questions, he may choose to do so with brief yes or no answers or a nod of the head. Police Officers are trained to ask questions which call for a dialogue between the officer and the suspect, ie. in an attempt obtain incriminating information. If a suspect chooses not to speak with an officer, the suspect should politely inform the officer of his decision not to answer questions at this time and that he wishes to engage his legal right to counsel when that right becomes available to him.

The important thing to remember is that anything a suspect says or does in the presence of an officer is potential evidence and will be used against her in court. At a minimum a suspect should bear this fact in mind and not engage in a dialogue which clearly will incriminate her at a later time. As defendants soon learn, many law enforcement officers do not approach these serious criminal matters with an open and objective mind. Officers record information and results of field sobriety tests (FSTs) with the specific intent to incriminate the suspect and obtain a conviction. Most officers tend not to record information which may prove to be helpful to a suspect. Therefore, it is not necessary for suspects to provide incriminating dialogue or other evidence which will later be used against them.

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