If you are pulled over by a police officer, you want to do everything in your power to avoid a citation or arrest. Oftentimes your interaction with the police officer during the traffic stop can have an influence on the outcome, but at the same time, what you say during a traffic stop can also end up leading to charges or a citation, so you’ll want to watch what you say. That begs the question, do you even need to answer questions from police during a traffic stop? We explore that question and more in today’s blog.
Answering Police Questions During A Traffic Stop
We usually say that you should stay quiet and refuse to answer any questions that could incriminate you, but that tends to pertain more to DWIs. You can certainly have a conversation with police if you are just getting pulled over for rolling a stop sign or speeding on the highway, but you’ll still want to have your guard up and avoid saying anything that could hurt your case. But before we dig into how you should answer questions, let’s answer the basic question, which is are you even legally required to answer questions from police during a traffic stop.
There are a few certain areas where you are legally required to answer if asked by police. If you are asked to provide identifying information or insurance information, you need to provide your license or your insurance card to the officer. They may ask you to confirm your name or birthday, and you should comply with this request. After these questions have been answered, you don’t need to answer any of the leading questions that follow. Some of the more common questions you may be asked include:
- Do you know why I stopped you?
- Did you know you were speeding?
- Where are you headed?
- Where are you coming from?
- Have you been drinking?
- Where do you live?
If you’re asked any of these questions, you can either respond truthfully by saying “No” or “I don’t know,” or you can simply say “I’m going to politely decline to answer that question,” or “I’m only going to answer the required identifying questions, thank you.”
You might not think that there’s much harm in answering those questions, but if a cop learns that you’re coming from the bar or that you were aware you were speeding, you may be digging yourself into a deeper hole. The cop is hoping you’ll provide them with more information, but they know that you are not legally required to do so, so if you’re polite, odds are they will be too.
In a normal traffic stop for a minor violation, it may certainly end up being more helpful to have a normal and polite conversation with the officer. Closing up and being stubborn may end in a citation. That said, admitting that you were speeding because you were late to pick up your kids from daycare because your husband is out of town and you got stuck at work can also lead to a citation, and this will be harder to contest because you openly admitted to speeding. It’s possible that the officer could empathize with you and let you off with a warning, but you’re rolling the dice by trying to play on their emotions by admitting to your wrongdoing.
Our advice is to be police and courteous and avoid saying anything that could incriminate you. Instead of admitting to speeding, say you were unaware of your speed. Never give them any information that could hurt your case. And remember, outside of the identifying information, you do not need to answer any additional questions, as you are protected by the 5th Amendment.
If you need help navigating a traffic citation or arrest, reach out to Avery and the team at Appelman Law Firm today at (952) 224-2277.