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Do you have to answer a New York police officer’s questions?

| Jul 19, 2019 | Criminal Defense

When a New York police officer pulls you over in traffic, he or she must have reason to do so. There’s no way of telling how such situations might unfold. The officer might simply inform you that you have a taillight out and issue instructions to get it repaired right away. He or she may ask you if you know how fast you were traveling. He or she may also inquire as to whether you have consumed alcohol before driving.

It’s critical that you know your rights and where to seek support to help protect them, especially if the officer in question asks you to exit your vehicle, which typically means he or she suspects you of drunk driving.

All that “anything you say” stuff is true

You’ve likely heard it said that police or prosecutors can use anything you say or do during a traffic stop against you in court if you wind up facing criminal charges in conjunction with your arrest. To a certain extent, this is true, which is why it’s so critical to understand your rights ahead of time.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you in such situations. The fact is, you do not have to answer any interrogation questions under arrest without benefit of legal representation. If a traffic stop leads to an officer asking your name, you must give it. If he or she asks something like, “Have you had a couple drinks this evening?” you do not have to respond other than saying you are not comfortable answering such questions without a lawyer present.

Amendment protection doesn’t constitute free rein

Knowing you have protection of speech doesn’t mean you can say anything you want to a police officer during a traffic stop. In fact, he or she may consider some types of comments a personal safety threat to himself or herself or others, which might warrant certain actions, including arresting you on the spot.

It’s always best to speak as politely and respectfully as possible when a police officer has detained you on the roadside. If he or she asks you to take a field sobriety test, you may decline or comply; the choice is yours, and there is no legal repercussion for refusing.

If you believe a police officer has violated your rights

If a New York police officer arrests you and you believe he or she violated your personal rights of free speech or protection against unlawful searches or seizures, etc., you can bring the matter to the court’s immediate attention.

In many cases, evidence of personal rights violations prompts judges to dismiss a case or to at least rule that certain evidence prosecutors wish to submit is inadmissible in court.