As the third blog in our series of how to interact with the police during a DUI stop, we wanted to explain how you should respond to the questioning and what you can expect from this. To read the first blog from our Prince George's County criminal attorneys about whether the talk is conversational or not, click here. Or to read the second blog about what you should do if the officer starts questioning you, click here.
We seem to have an innate need to explain and defend ourselves when we're questioned for whatever reason. However, the smartest thing to do when being questioned by the police is to fight that urge and exercise the right that so many of us forget we have, the right to remain silent. Understand that I'm not advising that you necessarily stonewall an officer when he or she has you pulled over on the side of the road. Nor am I advising that you behave in a disrespectful, aggressive or combative manner. What I am advising is that you politely and respectfully decline to answer any questions. I would memorize this sentence, "I would like to speak with an attorney and I respectfully decline to answer any questions or submit to any tests."
Please don't be fooled into thinking that just because you don't answer the officer's questions, he or she won't still remove you from the car and ask you to submit to several standard field sobriety tests because they might. The officer may casually say something like, "I just want to make sure you're ok to drive," or "just take the tests and if you're cool then you'll be on your way." Submitting to field sobriety tests is actually worse than answering questions but I'll explore that in another article. Just remember that sentence, "I would like to speak with an attorney and I respectfully decline to answer any questions or submit to any tests."
Can I Refuse to Speak or Take Tests?
What might you expect after you refuse to answer questions or submit to any tests? Police officers are people too which means that their reactions will differ. Some may become more aggressive, some may become frustrated, some may take it personally and some may not. Either way, you need to understand that the police are still in control and so you still need to be cooperative and respectful. You never want to give officers a reason to escalate the situation. You can't necessarily change the decision that officer makes on the side of the road but you can refrain from helping to sink your own ship. Don't give them more ammunition.
So what have we learned?
- When you've been stopped and the officer is asking questions, you're being investigated.
- No good will come from answering questions because you can't explain yourself out of the situation.
- Don't answer ANY questions. Remember the sentence, "I would like to speak with an attorney and I respectfully decline to answer any questions or submit to any tests."
- Be polite, be respectful and don't give the officer a reason to escalate the situation.
If you don't remember hardly anything from this article, remember this, KEEP QUIET and if find yourself on the side of the road being investigated by a police officer for DUI, remember that sentence and call Gracia & Mintz.