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2 questions you shouldn’t answer when the police pull you over

On Behalf of | Aug 21, 2023 | Criminal Law

When the police pull you over, they have every right to ask for your identification, your driver’s license and your insurance card – but that’s not all they may ask.

A lot of traffic stops are pretexts for drunk driving investigations, especially when they happen in the evening around the time that people are heading home from restaurants and bars. It only takes a minor traffic error, like turning too wide or not quite coming to a full stop before turning right on red, to raise a reasonable suspicion in the mind of an officer who is looking for impaired motorists. That’s why you need to be very careful how you answer an officer’s initial questions. Quite often, you’ll hear:

“Do you know why I pulled you over?”

This tends to immediately make drivers nervous enough that they do the one thing they shouldn’t ever do when interacting with the police: They confess. A lot of drivers immediately admit to the last driving mistake they think they may have made (and many guess), usually in the hopes that the officer will let them go with a warning instead of a ticket if they take responsibility for their actions. However, the moment that you admit that you know you were speeding or rolled through a stop sign, you’ve confessed to a traffic infraction. That can give the officer more justification to extend the stop and poke around for evidence that you’re impaired.

“Have you been drinking tonight?”

Sometimes officers are a little bolder because they know that drivers will often be intimidated into admitting that they had a glass of wine or a beer while they were out – but that’s as bad (or worse) than admitting to a traffic infraction. No officer is inclined to believe someone when they say they just had one beer with dinner, and admitting to drinking anything before driving is likely to set you down a path that ends with an arrest.

So, how do you answer? Lying to a police officer during an investigation is a crime, but you can deflect. Often, responding to either question with a polite, “I’m sorry officer, can you just tell me why you pulled me over?” may be enough. If all else fails, however, don’t be afraid to invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

It’s a little unnerving to suddenly see flashing red and blues in your rearview mirror, but you can often successfully navigate a traffic stop without any further problems. You may not even get a ticket. If the traffic stop turns into a drunk driving charge, however, continue to exercise your right to remain silent until you can fully explore your available defenses.