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Exercise your right to remain silent

With the holidays approaching, you are likely making plans for office parties, family gatherings and festive celebrations with friends. This probably means driving to and from the event, which may place you at risk, especially if you plan to be drinking.

Law enforcement agencies typically increase their presence at this time of year, and you have a higher chance of an officer pulling you over under the suspicion that you are driving while impaired. Whether you know you have had too much, consumed one beer hours earlier or have not touched a drop of alcohol, your rights are on the line as soon as the officer approaches your vehicle. Understanding your right to remain silent is critical.

Know your rights

Anyone who has watched a crime drama on TV knows that police must warn you of your right to remain silent after they arrest you. The U.S. Constitution protects your right to refuse to answer questions that may incriminate you. Since you do not know how police or prosecutors may use your words against you, it is always a good idea to say as little as possible to a police officer who has pulled you over.

Unfortunately, you may be among the many who have incorrect or incomplete information about the right to remain silent. For example, you do not have to be under arrest to refuse to answer questions. Police count on the fact that few citizens fully understand their rights, and they may use that against you in the following ways:

  • Telling you that refusing to answer questions makes you look guilty
  • Telling you that answering questions is the only way to prove you are innocent
  • Phrasing requests as commands, such as, "You don't mind if I search your vehicle, do you."
  • Lying to you to get you to waive your rights

The moment when Texas police pull you over is stressful enough, and you may instinctively talk from nervousness. Without knowing your rights, what you say may result in your arrest.

What should I do?

If police stop you and begin to ask you questions, it may seem like they are being polite and making conversation. However, you can be sure they are looking for anything that gives them probable cause to place you under arrest. To avoid this, you can simply respond that you respectfully decline to answer questions. You may also ask if you are free to leave, and if the officer says you are, you should immediately drive away.

On the other hand, if police arrest you, do not lose your cool. Maintain civility and remind the officer that you will not answer any questions until you speak with your attorney.

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John M. Petruzzi, Attorney at Law
4900 Woodway Drive, Suite 745
Houston, Texas 77056

Toll Free: 888-386-4503
Phone: 713-581-1789
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