Do I have to Answer Questions After a Traffic Stop

The scenario is repeated hundreds of time each day. Someone is pulled over for a traffic offense, the police officer smells alcohol. One of the first questions they are going to ask is have you had anything to drink. You don't want to lie, so you say yes. The next question is how much, and you are going to say "2 or 3" - trust me, 99% of the people give that answer. Since everyone says the same thing, they aren't going to believe you, and assume it's  been a lot more. You have probably just ensured an escorted trip to the local jail.

I'll give you a hint. If the police smell alcohol, and you admit you have been drinking, you're probably going to jail. While you might think that's ridiculous, think about it from the officer's perspective. The last thing any police officer wants to do is let someone who go, who goes down the road and is involved in the accident. The first question is "why did  you let them go." While it might not be fair, more often than not they are going to err on the side of taking you to jail.

If you're going to get arrested anyway, why should you do anything to help them convict you in court. Most people don't know this, but you have the right to refuse to answer questions. You do have to provide your name and identification, but that's it. Most people think they are going to look guilty if they refuse to answer questions, and you probably are. However, it's better than giving evidence to use against you later.

Here's how it plays out. If you admit you've been drinking, you already made at least half the case for the State. They aren't going to believe you on the number of drinks, and will argue you were trying to minimize the amount. Just as damaging are statements about when your last drink was. Most people want to put it as far back as possible. The State will believe that statement, and use that against you. Since alcohol is eliminated from the body, if you take a blood or breath test, they are going to argue that your alcohol level was actually much higher when you were driving, since it had gone down some by the time the test was done.

I know its unfortable to refuse to answer questions from a police officer. We've all been conditioned to cooperate with the police. This is one situation though where cooperation is not a good thing - at least for you.

If you've been arrested for a DWI, and want to discuss your case and see if we can help, give us a call at 254-781-3588.

Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 30 years.