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Should you answer questions during a traffic stop?

On Behalf of | Jul 23, 2020 | Criminal Defense

You may have heard of white coat syndrome. This is a nervous condition many people have when they are in the presence of a medical doctor or other staff member wearing a white medical coat. It is similar to an anxiety attack and causes their blood pressure to rise. You might experience similar anxiety around police officers, especially if one pulls you over in a traffic stop. No matter how nervous you are, however, it’s important to know your rights, particularly if you wind up needing a criminal defense.

A traffic stop might last less than four minutes or a patrol officer might detain you outside your vehicle for quite some time. If this happens, he or she may suspect you of impaired driving. In Florida, you must present proof of identification if a police officer demands it of you in a traffic stop. Beyond that, however, you do not necessarily have to answer any questions.

Know your rights

Perhaps, you were driving home from a night out with friends when you saw the red and blue lights of a police car flashing in your rear-view mirror. You pull over and an officer approaches, then starts asking questions, such as whether you know the reason for the stop or how fast you were traveling, where you were headed, or whether you had any alcohol to drink before getting behind the wheel. It is important to remember your right to an attorney before you answer any questions.

You are free to invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent in such situations. You can simply tell the officer that you are doing so and that you will not answer questions without having legal representation present to advise you.

Can police ever search your person or vehicle without a warrant?

During a traffic stop, a police officer might ask if you mind if he or she searches your vehicle. In most cases, police must first obtain a valid search warrant before conducting a search of your person or property. There are exceptions to the rule, such as if the officer in question believes you are a threat to his or her safety or the safety of the general public.

Even if an officer pats you down to check for a weapon, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she can reach inside your pocket or demand that you empty a pocket. It is always best to be polite and respectful and to cooperate as much as possible without potentially incriminating yourself.

If you get arrested

What if you comply with a request to take a field sobriety test, for instance, and the officer fails you then places you under arrest on suspicion of drunk driving? Things might get a lot worse before they get better, but you may be able to alleviate the stress of the moment by requesting immediate legal support.