“Officer, I am going to remain silent. I would like to leave. Can I go?
Officer, I want to speak to a lawyer.”
Some people struggle with what to say to an officer to inform him they do not want to talk to him. In Texas, the only legal requirement you have to speak to a police officer is that if you are suspected of a legal violation or witnessing a legal violation, you must identify yourself with your true name, address, and date of birth, and provide state ID or driver’s license. Other than that, you have no obligation to say anything to a police officer. Still, most people want to be respectful and cooperative and feel awkward about not saying anything when asked a question. True, being polite to the police officer is always wise.
But you should know where politeness has to end. Keep in mind that by the time the officer approaches you, he should have already completed two phases of a DWI investigation. By the time you open your window, if the officer smells alcohol, his mission will be to arrest you for DWI, not make an objective decision whether or not to arrest you. All questions asked (even casual ones), observations, and tests performed on you are not for the purpose of making up the officer’s mind – rather, they are all for the purpose of mounting evidence against you to prove his case.
With that said, you need to have a game plan for when you are going to stop answering questions. When you do, it will feel awkward. The officer will press you. He will try to make you feel guilty for not wanting to talk to him. You need to smoothly and politely transition to silence. Many people will have trouble because they feel that refusing to cooperate is an admission of guilt. You can have peace of mind knowing that invoking your right to remain silent and to a lawyer cannot be held against you in court, which is the only place that matters in a DWI case.
When the officer first contacts you, he may introduce himself, ask you if you know why he pulled you over (you say “No.”), ask you to identify yourself or produce your ID/Driver’s License, insurance and registration. Soon, the officer will ask one of the following questions:
“Where are you coming from?”
“Where are you headed?”
“I smell alcohol. Have you been drinking?”
“How much have you had to drink tonight?”
Or some other question not related to identifying yourself. At this point, you invoke your right to remain silent and ask to leave:
Officer, I am going to remain silent. I would like to leave. Can I go?
The officer will almost certainly not let you go, may get angry, may ask you more questions, may ask you why you do not want to talk to him. Most people then feel pressured and stammer to make an excuse. You will stick to your guns. You will invoke your right to remain silent and ask to leave until you are told you may not leave. You then invoke your right to an attorney:
Officer, I want to speak to a lawyer.
The officer may order you out of the vehicle. You will get out of the vehicle if asked to. The officer may order you to do some standardized field sobriety tests or an “eye test” or he may say “I am going to check your eyes.” As I will explain in a later part, you will respectfully refuse to let him do an “eye test” or any standardized field sobriety tests.
Now you know what to say to an officer when pulled over, and you won’t worry about awkwardness or harassment. I write this knowing that the officer could still choose to arrest you for DWI. But remember: If he will arrest you for DWI when you said nothing and did no field sobriety tests, he certainly would have arrested you if you talked and attempted the tests. And now your DWI lawyer will have a very strong defense, and you may avoid a DWI conviction! Great news!
DWI is the Devil. Call (469) 666-4-DWI.
If you are being pulled over right now, quickly read these 10 Commandments When Pulled Over.