Know Your Rights
The following is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.
Officer, am I free to leave?
Often people interact with the police in a traffic stop. You need to provide your identification and proof of insurance to the officer. However, if the officer continues questioning you beyond this information, ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says you are free to leave, then you may want to leave. If the officer says you are not free to leave, then you should consider requesting an attorney and not making any further statements until you talk to one.
Police officers often carry Miranda Warning cards and read them to suspects.
Don’t waive your rights and consent to searches of your person, home or vehicle. If the officer asks you if s/he can search your car, house, or person, you can say no.
Field sobriety tests - If the officer asks you to do “field sobriety tests” such as the walk-and-turn test, the one leg stand, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, etc, you are not required to perform those tests. Those tests are highly subjective and their only purpose is for the officer to create more grounds to arrest you. If you are asked to do those tests, you should consider politely telling the officer you wish to leave and do not want to perform those tests.
To blow or not to blow, that is the question. If the officer asks you to submit to a breath test or a blood test to determine your blood alcohol content, if you refuse you will likely lose your license for a year. Factors to consider when deciding whether or not to refuse are whether you have a prior DWI conviction, whether the driver holds a regular driver’s license or a commercial driver’s license (CDL), and whether there was an accident. You may be allowed 20 minutes to attempt to contact an attorney to help advise you should this situation arise.
Interrogations The police only have to read you your Miranda warning if you are (1) in custody (i.e., not free to leave) and (2) you are being interrogated/questioned.
You have the right to remain silent. Use it. Upon hearing the Miranda Warning, most people waive their rights and continue talking to the police. Often they continue to talk because they think that if they explain things to the police, the police will understand and things will be better for them. Often the police will use tactics to encourage people to waive their rights, such as lying to the person about evidence or statements of witnesses, or pretending to understand the person and acting like the person’s “buddy.”
If you hear these words, this constitutional warning, you are probably in trouble. Even if you’re innocent, especially if you’re innocent, you should consider exercising your rights.
How do you exercise your rights?
Ask for an attorney and then keep your mouth shut until you talk to one.
Again, the above is not meant to be legal advice and is for informational purposes only. It is very general information and may not apply to your specific situation, should a situation arise. If you find yourself wanting legal advice as to a specific situation, please feel free to schedule a consultation with the Bukowsky Law Firm.