Every individual in the United States has a constitutional right to remain silent in circumstances where they could incriminate themselves. However, many times, people are confused about when this is allowed and what this right means.
When Silence Is Golden
As a general rule, a police officer must have probable cause or reasonable suspicion for contacting a member of the public. This could include, for example, smelling alcohol on the breath of a driver or a reasonable suspicion based on the observation that a criminal offense has taken place. Otherwise, you have no legal obligation to answer their questions or even remain in contact with them.
In the same vein, an officer can ask a person questions or ask to carry out a search, even if they do not have a reason to suspect someone of committing a crime, as long they do not suggest in any way that the person has a legal obligation to answer a question or consent to the search. The person in question can simply decline the officer’s request.
At a traffic stop, you should show a police officer your license, insurance proof, and registration when they ask for them. However, other than providing that information, you don’t have to answer any other questions. At this point, you have the right to stay silent, but you do need to let the officer know you are invoking this right by saying something like, “I am remaining silent.” You must, however, perform roadside sobriety tests if requested as you have agreed to do so by getting a driver’s license. This is called the implied consent law.
If you decide to stay silent at a traffic stop, the officer can take further action. They may ask you to step out of the vehicle and ask questions, but you are not obligated to answer them. Of course, they can also still arrest you, but by staying silent and waiting for your criminal lawyer in Denver, CO, you are less likely to accidentally say something that could be used against you later.
It is important to remember that you do have to tell officers you are invoking your right to stay silent. The US Supreme Case has held that staying silent on its own does not automatically invoke your right to remain silent. Once you receive your Miranda warning–a list of warnings the police must read to you before they can use anything you say in court–make sure you repeat that you are remaining silent and ask for your criminal lawyer in Denver, CO. Once you do this, the officers have to end the interrogation until you have met with your attorney and decided what your next steps will be.
Keep in mind that silence doesn’t necessarily mean guilt, even if the police officers or prosecutor tell you that it does. It simply can protect you from making statements that make the situation worse. Police questioning can be exhausting and long, and people do and have said things they didn’t mean simply because they were feeling threatened, tired or afraid.
Your defense attorney will protect your rights, let you know what your options are, and make sure the police do not overstep their boundaries during your questions. If you are arrested or suspected of a crime, it’s in your best interest to remain silent and contact a lawyer, as soon as you can.
Thank you to the experts at Richard Banta, P.C. for their input into insurance fraud.