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Silence is Golden if You’re Pulled Over by the Police

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Being pulled over here in the Denver Metro area is intimidating. You may feel you must respond to the officer’s questions, but that’s not true. As you’ve often heard on television shows and movies, you have the right to remain silent. That right only helps you if you take advantage of it. 

If an officer pulls you over because they think you’re intoxicated, it’s best not only to decline to answer questions but to not say anything. This doesn’t mean you should be aggressive with the officer. It only means you’re aggressively defending your rights and doing what’s legally permissible to make an arrest and conviction more difficult. Be polite and respectful. Just don’t talk. 

You should give the officer your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance if the officer asks for them. When asked questions, you can shake your head no or state you won’t answer. Keep both hands visible on the wheel if you’re sitting in the driver’s seat. If asked to get out of the vehicle, do so. Don’t make any moves that may be interpreted as a threat. 

What Legal Standards Are There to Establish If I Should Be Arrested? 

There’s a two-step process if you’re pulled over: 

  • The officer must have sufficient legal grounds to pull you over to make a valid arrest. The officer must have a reasonable suspicion that you broke the law or are breaking it when you’re stopped. Usually, infractions like weaving in and out of lanes, speeding, driving too slowly, or ignoring a stop sign or red light are cited as reasons to pull people over. If there’s no reasonable suspicion to justify stopping you, any evidence developed after the arrest should be excluded 
  • The officer must have probable cause to arrest you. If you’re arrested without it, the arrest can be challenged at a probable cause hearing in court. If the prosecution can’t establish it, the charges should be dismissed. Probable cause exists if the facts and circumstances known by the officer, based on reasonably trustworthy information, would warrant a person of reasonable caution to believe a crime is occurring or was committed 

Your silence won’t impact whether or not there was reasonable suspicion to pull you over. However, it can affect whether there’s probable cause to arrest you.  

Must I Answer Questions? 

Thanks to the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, you have the right to remain silent. You also do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle, though the police officer may pat down your clothing to see if you’re carrying a weapon. Depending on the circumstances, they may have legal grounds for a search anyway, or they may get a search warrant which would permit a search. 

How Will I Benefit If I Don’t Talk? 

The prosecution’s best witness in DUI cases is often the defendant. The more you talk and respond to questions, the more you risk providing evidence that may establish probable cause to arrest you. Officers often base probable cause on what drivers say, how they say it, and how their breath smells. Because you’re nervous and stressed, you may also mistakenly say something that can be interpreted as an admission of guilt. The less you say, the less there is to establish probable cause.  

Even though you’re not talking, how you respond to the officer and how you behave can be evidence. If you’re falling asleep or can’t stand up, all the silence in the world may not help you. Being aggressive with the officer could be blamed on your alleged intoxication. 

Will Maintaining Silence Help Me If I’m Arrested? 

If you’re arrested despite your silence, there’s less evidence supporting the arrest, and it may be easier to challenge it later. The prosecution must meet a much higher burden of proof than probable cause to get a conviction: there must be enough evidence to show that you committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if there was probable cause for an arrest, your silence may limit the proof a jury would need in order to find you guilty. 

Don’t Go It Alone 

Kevin Churchill has represented people like you in these cases for more than 24 years. Representing yourself may lead to severe mistakes that affect you for the rest of your life. If you’re charged with DUI, DUID, or DWAI in the Denver Metro area or anywhere in the Front Range, contact Denver DUI attorney Kevin Churchill at (303) 832-9000.