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Traffic Stops: When silence is your best friend

No one wants, or expects, to be pulled over for driving intoxicated. If we thought we were unable to drive, we would take a cab or call a friend. But the fact remains that, many times, we feel as though we are capable of driving when the law says we are not.

The question, then, is: What do I do when stopped by law enforcement, especially if I have been drinking?

Knowing what to do makes all the difference

Knowing our rights and exercising them make all the difference in a traffic stop. As children, our parents taught us to respect authority and to respond accordingly.

We can’t stress enough that you should always be polite during a traffic stop. Complying with the officer fosters good will.  But, being respectful and protecting yourself are not mutually exclusive.

Officers will do their best to get a statement out of you. They are skilled negotiators and generally, if they suspect you may be driving under the influence, the first thing they will ask you is whether or not you have been drinking.

The fewer word the better

You feel fine and so you believe that answering affirmatively – “Yes, but I only had two drinks and I had something to eat” – can’t possibly hurt you. Unfortunately, you are wrong.

Every word you utter to an officer will be written down, it will be entered into the record and it will be used against you. So, you ask, what am I supposed to say?

Your best defense is to invoke the Fifth Amendment. You must identify yourself, so provide your license, and insurance if asked, and when the first question comes, very politely and respectfully respond, my attorney has advised me not to answer questions. By doing so, you have invoked your right to remain silent, and all questioning must cease.

Learn to say no

It can be hard to protect yourself; you might be afraid that you risk making the officer angry. But law enforcement know your rights and know you have a right to enforce them, so use them. They are one of the greatest gifts you have in the United States, there to ensure your freedom.

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Travis Noble is a graduate of the National College for DUI Defense at Harvard University, and he lectures at seminars nationwide on DWI/DUI topics. He is the lawyer whom other lawyers consult to defend their DWI clients. Most importantly, he has a track record of successfully defending some of the toughest DWI cases in Missouri and beyond.

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