Many people go the majority of their lives without having much interaction with police officers. Still, law enforcement could stop anyone’s vehicle, question their activities when something suspicious occurs or generally look for information from them. As a result, it is always wise to understand your legal rights.
One of the most important rights you, other Maryland residents and everyone across the country has is to remain silent. Though everyone has this right afforded to them, far too many do not fully understand when they can invoke this right. You may be among the numerous people who think that you have to answer a police officer’s questions.
You always have that right
Even if an officer has not placed you under arrest or told you that you have the right to remain silent, you still have that right. If an officer pulls over your vehicle, you will likely need to comply with any requests for your driver’s license, vehicle insurance and vehicle registration. In any situation, you will also likely need to identify yourself to officers if asked. However, beyond that, you do not have to answer any probing questions, even those that may seem unrelated to criminal activity.
You may worry that remaining silent will make you look guilty or will lead to punishment. Fortunately, an officer cannot punish you for not answering most questions, and an officer cannot force you to revoke your right to remain silent. Typically, only a judge can order you to answer questions. Of course, that does not mean that an officer will not try to coerce you or intimidate you into asking questions.
You can stop answering at any time
When an officer first approaches you, you may think that you have no reason to remain silent because you have nothing to hide. Even if an officer simply asks you about your evening or your destination, he or she is trying to gather information to potentially use as evidence. So, even if you have already told an officer that you are heading to a friend’s house or even going home, you can stop answering questions at any time.
At first, you may think it is drastic to want to talk to a lawyer before answering any police questions, but asking for an attorney could be an action that helps preserve your rights and best interests.