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Photo of attorneys David F. Fessler, Joseph F. Grimme and Timothy E. Schneider

Understanding your rights when stopped by law enforcement

On Behalf of | Jul 23, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Seeing flashing lights behind you can leave a sinking feeling in your stomach. You may be sure you did nothing wrong, but you might still worry about what the officers will ask and whether they will get the wrong impression.

Although not all law enforcement interactions start with flashing lights, talking to law enforcement can still be intimidating. It can be challenging to remember what you should and should not do when officers ask you questions.

Here’s what you should know about your rights when you are talking to law enforcement.

The same rights with all agencies

Some law enforcement agencies may seem more intimidating than others. While you may not worry as much about a police officer on patrol, you might be more concerned about someone from the FBI or the DEA.

Remember, what you say to an officer can be used against you if they charge you and take you to court. Also, if an officer discovers that you lied while answering questions, you could face additional consequences.

What do I need to say?

With only a few exceptions, you can remain completely silent if an officer stops you, or you may simply ask to speak to an attorney before you answer any questions. However, there are also times when you do need to answer an officer’s questions. In general, there are two times when you need to give an officer information:

  • To identify yourself
  • To provide license and vehicle registration information if you were driving

Once you give this basic information, you can request to talk to a lawyer before answering any other questions. A lawyer will advise you what information you should provide and when you should continue to stay silent.