If you are like most people here in Port Orchard, seeing a police car behind you with lights and sirens causes a certain amount of anxiety in you. Even if you don’t think you did anything wrong, you may start second guessing yourself, especially if you had a drink or two before driving.
When the officer approaches your vehicle, he or she may begin asking you questions. Other than basic identification information, you don’t have to answer. Frankly, it’s not your job to provide an officer with probable cause to arrest you. You do not have to be under arrest or read your Miranda rights before taking advantage of your right to remain silent.
But, you do have to say something
If you don’t intend to answer the officer’s investigative questions, you cannot simply stay quiet. The United States Supreme Court requires you to specifically invoke your right to remain silent in order for your protections to kick in. You must make it clear to the officer that you intend to remain silent. Any use of vague language, silence or other body language can be misinterpreted. Instead, you could say one or more of the following:
- I am remaining silent.
- I am exercising my right to remain silent.
- I will only speak after talking to an attorney.
- I only want to speak with an attorney.
You don’t necessarily have to use these words, just be sure that you choose clear and concise language that any reasonable person would understand to mean that you do not want to answer any questions and you are invoking your right to remain silent.
Once you do so, all questioning by law enforcement stops. This includes any other officers or investigators you come into contact with if you end up under arrest. However, don’t count on them simply walking away and not trying to get you to talk later. Once you decide to stay quiet, stay that way until you speak with an attorney. Law enforcement officials usually know where the line is, and they could come right up against it.
If police violate your rights
If an officer or investigator fails to stop interrogating you when you expressly invoke your right to remain silent, the court may not allow any statements you make under these circumstances into court. Police officers understand the human desire to tell their side of the story regardless of an invocation of rights, and they may even lie to you to get you to talk. Don’t do it. You are not obligated to respond.