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Can I refuse to answer police questioning during a DUI stop?

When you see the blue lights flashing behind you after having a few beers after work or a couple glasses of wine at dinner, it's tempting to panic, especially once the officer comes to the window. Whether you are over the legal limit or not, the way that you respond to the officer during your initial interaction with him or her greatly impacts your legal defense options later.

With very few exceptions, you have the right to remain silent and refuse to speak or answer questions, although this is not always the wisest course of action. You must always make sure that you understand the other issues at hand before speaking to police, and when in doubt, it is wise to say as little as possible.

What you have to tell police

If a police officer asks you to identify yourself — which is standard in any traffic stop — you must give the office your name and show a form of identification if you have one. However, other than your name, the law does not usually require you to provide an officer with any more information. It is up to you to decide how much more to share, if anything.

Understand that the officer is actively gathering evidence to charge you with a crime. Even if you do not believe that you committed a crime, it is never wise to volunteer information. It is usually wisest to remain calm and consider each of your responses before you make them. Once you give the officer your name, at any time you may say that you do not wish to answer a question without the guidance of your attorney.

It is worth mentioning that, legally speaking, silence does not imply guilt. However, practically speaking, if an officer pulls you over for suspected drunk driving and you refuse to answer any questions, you are very likely to receive drunk driving charges. Minimizing what you say in the interaction may not help you dodge charges, but it will help you avoid the threat of self-incrimination.

Police protocol

Do not rely on police to inform you of your rights. In many instances, police can gather evidence against you without accusing you of a crime, meaning that they do not have to read you your Miranda rights until your arrest is imminent.

The less that you say to an officer, whether you believe that you are below the legal limit or not, the less evidence the prosecution has to build a case against you. Refraining from answering questions or volunteering information helps your chances of building your own successful defense to DUI charges.

It is also important to document anything that you can about your interaction, especially if the officer does not obey protocol. Violations of the officers protocol, specifically those that violate your rights, may justify dismissing the charges altogether.

Be careful to address any criminal charges as soon as you can after an arrest. Use all of the resources that you have available to protect your freedom and your future with a strong legal defense as soon as you can, to ensure that you have the time that you need to build a strategy that secures your rights.

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