What Do I Have to Say to an Officer During a Traffic Stop

Criminal Law
What Do I Have to Say to an Officer During a Traffic Stop

What Do I Have to Say to an Officer During a Traffic Stop

Posted in Criminal Law
by Justin Van Den Heuvel

You have just been pulled over and the officer is at your window. The officer requests that you roll down your window and attempts to engage you in conversation. In doing so, the officer is doing more than simply being nice. He or she is attempting to gather information to support further investigation into you. For instance, the officer might be attempting to detect:

  • Smells of marijuana and/or alcohol coming from your car;
  • An odor of alcohol on your breath that may suggest recent alcohol consumption;
  • Signs that your speech may be slurred or that you may be having difficulty forming a sentence; or
  • Whether you are having difficulty with fine motor skills such as pulling out your license or other requested documents.

Many people are intimidated when they are pulled over by a police officer and feel pressured to be pleasant, talkative, and cooperative with the officer. But must you be this way when you are stopped by an officer? An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide answers to this question and more.

An Officer Can Request Your License, Registration, and Proof of Insurance

If an officer does pull you over, assuming the stop is legal – and is something you would not know until much later in your case, the officer is permitted to ask you for your license, your vehicle registration, and proof of your automobile insurance. Do not fight or argue with the officer over this request; being combative or uncooperative with a law enforcement officer asking for your license, registration, and proof of insurance can lead to other criminal charges. Consider carrying these documents together in a single Ziploc bag or similar container that is easily accessible – fumbling through your wallet looking for your documents is a “clue” of intoxication that officers are trained to look for.

You Do Not Have to Answer the Officer’s Questions

Officers will attempt to engage you in conversation to see if you will admit to having consumed alcohol before driving. This is another “clue” of intoxication. They might also attempt to engage you in conversation to see if they can notice slurred speech or an odor of alcohol on your breath, because both are “clues” of intoxication. You, however, are not under any obligation to answer the officer’s questions about your alcohol consumption. Note that there is a difference between refusing to answer a question and lying. You can refuse to tell the officer how much you had to drink, and you should consider doing so. You should not tell the officer a lie such as “I haven’t had anything to drink” when it is fairly obvious that you have, in fact, been drinking.

Work with an Experienced Michigan OWI Attorney

Contact Van Den Heuvel Law Office as soon as possible if you are cited or arrested for driving under the influence. You should not make any incriminating statements to law enforcement, either during the initial stop or after you have been arrested, without first talking with our experienced OWI attorneys. We will carefully examine the evidence the prosecution has and advance any substantive or procedural defenses you may have available to you. We can be reached at (616) 698-0000 or you can contact us through our website.



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