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The Right Way to Refuse to Comply With an Officer’s Request

Interviewer: How would someone refuse, in the right way, without getting him or herself into additional trouble?

Kevin: A driver can simply say, “I don’t wish to answer any of your questions.” It’s an easy way of not giving any type of information that an officer can try to turn around on the driver and use as incriminatory evidence.

Interviewer: What if the police say, “You better answer my questions or I’m going to arrest you”?

Kevin: That’s the problem for most people who haven’t been in these situations before. They are often very nervous and feel highly compelled to answer whatever question the officer is asking. The driver is going to probably also feel that by not answering questions, he or she is going to be arrested or treated in a worse manner than if full cooperation is given.

In my vast experience with DWI cases, I have had a majority of clients who have been 100% cooperative with the police and still ended up being charged with a DWI, at the end of the investigation.

If a driver simply says, “I do not want to speak without an attorney present” or “I don’t want to answer any of your questions,” and refuses to, for the remainder of the investigation, then an officer who doesn’t know the law may try to claim that the person was obstructing the investigation. Yet, there’s no obligation to give that information and that charge should get dropped eventually.

You Cannot Be Arrested for Refusing to Supply an Officer With Information Beyond Your Name and Driving Documentation

A driver really can’t be arrested or charged for simply not giving a police officer information that he or she has requested.

Interviewer: If the police says, “I already know that you did this,” or “I already know the answer to the questions. You’re going to need to answer me this.” Same thing, people can still say, “I’m sorry. I’m not going to answer any questions.” Is that right?

Kevin: Of course you can say that, or just stop talking, after the initial statement. Realistically speaking, you don’t have to even talk to a police officer when stopped. The only obligation you really have is to give the driving documentation and comply with any command to exit the car.

Depending on Your State of Residence, You May Be Required to Submit to a Blood or Breath Test

Then there’s a subsequent obligation you have, if you’re arrested for the DUI, in the form of providing a breath sample or blood sample, depending on the state you’re in. Aside from that, you don’t have to give any type of incriminating statements or information to a police officer.

You Do Not Have to Perform the Field Sobriety Tests

This right to refuse also includes participating in field sobriety tests or participating in a drug recognition evaluation. A driver can refuse to participate in field sobriety testing.

People may feel a lot of coercion in an investigatory situation where they have to do field sobriety testing or they’re going to be arrested. There is no legal obligation for a driver to actually do field sobriety tests.

By Kevin Leckerman

Attorney Kevin Lekerman
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