Anyone who has had the benefit of speaking with a qualified attorney knows there is never a good reason to talk to police if you are being questioned about a potential criminal offense. What most people don’t realize until it is too late, however, is that a traffic stop is an interrogation, and anything you say can and will be used against you.
No matter what the circumstances of the stop, you have an absolute right to remain silent. So important is this right that it is recognized in the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. Your best option is to exercise this right whenever possible.
Lawful Orders vs. Questions
Qualified attorneys will tell you a private citizen is obligated to obey the lawful orders of a police officer. However, you are never obligated to answer questions asked by a police officer, especially if the answers could be interpreted to incriminate you. Lawyers at organizations like Lowry Law Firm can show you where the Fifth Amendment states no person shall be compelled to be a witness against themselves. The reason this right is recognized in the Constitution is because answering incriminating questions has considerable potential to implicate an innocent person.
If you are stopped for a DUI, you are suspected of committing a serious criminal offense. If the police order you out of your vehicle, you must comply with that order. However, if the police ask if you’ve been drinking, you are not obligated to answer, because even if you haven’t had a single drink, your answer to that question might imply otherwise and further, could be used to convict you of a crime you didn’t commit.
Under the law, you cannot be penalized for exercising your rights. Not answering questions during a DUI stop and refusing searches of your vehicle are both legal acts. Not only is punishing someone for exercising their rights forbidden by both state and federal law, such an act could be used as the basis for setting aside a conviction in certain circumstances. The police may claim you are hurting yourself by not cooperating, but the bottom line is your rights are your own and may not be infringed.
There is absolutely nothing you can say or do by the side of the road during a DUI stop that can help you avoid being cited, arrested or prosecuted. Even if you have air-tight exculpatory evidence you’ve never had a drink in your life, telling the police won’t help you in a DUI case. If your attorney calls the officer to testify at trial, the prosecution will object on the grounds anything the officer says is hearsay and the judge will sustain the objection.
The best option in all circumstances is to keep your mouth shut and immediately request to speak with your attorney. Then let them do the talking from that point forward. Both you and your attorney will be grateful for your wise choices later.
Traffic stops are stressful enough without creating more problems for yourself. Even in a DUI case, the best option is to exercise your rights and let your lawyer handle it.