Dealing with the police can be a scary and disorienting experience, especially for those people who have little prior experience interacting with law enforcement. When a police officer approaches you and begins asking you questions, you may feel that you have no choice but to answer them. You may also wonder what harm could possibly come from answering officers’ inquiries if you are innocent and have nothing to hide. On the other hand, you may be familiar with your “right to remain silent” and wish not to have to engage in a lengthy conversation with an authority figure. Below, our experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer at Overson Law, PLLC guides you through what you should and should not say to the police and how to interact with officers who wish to question you.
Why You Should Never Speak to the Police Without a Lawyer in Salt Lake City
There are a variety of situations in which the police might approach you for questioning. They can simply come up to you on the street and start talking to you. They can ask you to come into the police station for a formal interview. They can place you under arrest and, after arresting you, bring you into their interrogation room and start peppering you with questions. Under none of these scenarios should you speak to the police without the presence of a trained Utah criminal defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC.
Except for a very few situations that we will speak to in the sections below, you are never required to speak to the police. The U.S. Constitution grants you the right to remain silent when being questioned by law enforcement, whether or not you have been charged with a crime. As a law-abiding citizen with nothing to hide, you may think that there is no reason why you should not just be honest and cooperative with the police. Unfortunately, however, police are experts at twisting your words and using them against you and even seemingly innocent things that you say could end up bringing you major headaches.
For example, say the police are questioning you after a drunken bar fight. You were not involved in the fight even though you were present in the crowded bar where it happened, but the individual who was assaulted fingered you as the culprit. When questioning you, the police might ask whether you know the individual who was assaulted. Perhaps you know him and think he’s a jerk, and you tell this to the police. They can now hold your statement that you had ill-feelings for this man against you in any future proceedings, even though you made no admission to assaulting him because of those feelings.
The best thing you can do whenever the police want to question you is to tell them that you want an attorney. If they keep trying to question you, don’t reply with anything except continually insisting that you want an attorney. An experienced West Valley city criminal defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC will have been through many police interrogations before and will know how to advise you on what to say and what not to say, and can object to questions the attorney believes are out of line.
Instances Where the Law Requires You to Answer Police Inquiries in Salt Lake City
There are two situations where state law requires you to give some sort of reply to any officer’s inquiry. These exceptions are minor and do not require you to say anything beyond the small amount of information you are required to provide.
Stop and Identify Law
Utah has a law on the books that states that, if an officer has reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime, you must identify yourself to that officer if they approach and ask you to do so. Under this law, identifying yourself means providing the officer with your legal name, current address, and an “explanation of your actions.” However, this last part is clearly in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s right against self-incrimination and cannot actually be enforced. In truth, you can only be required to provide your name and address.
You do not have to give the officer any sort of identification card or paperwork. You only need to provide your name and address. You also have no obligation to answer any further questions the officer asks you. If you ask them if you are being detained and they say you are not, you are free to leave without answering any of their inquiries about your involvement in whatever they are investigating.
If you do fail to provide your name and address, you can be convicted of a misdemeanor. “Failure to disclose identity” is a class B misdemeanor and penalties include up to 180 days in jail and fine sup to $1,900.
Providing Identification During a Vehicle Stop
When you sign up for a driver’s license, you agree to certain conditions. One of those is providing proper driving documentation to officers if they stop you for a suspected driving offense. Under state law, you must provide your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance information. Failure to provide any of this information can result in charges against you. You do not, however, have to answer any further questions the officer may ask of you.
Note that if you are stopped under suspicion of drunk driving, you do not have to comply with roadside balance tests or answer the officer’s questions. However, if they place you under arrest for DUI charge in Salt Lake City, you must comply with breath, blood, or urine testing at the station or you could be charged with the separate crime of refusal.
If You are Concerned About Speaking with Police Officers, Call Our Salt Lake City Attorneys Today
Except in the few situations described above, you never have a responsibility to reveal any information to police officers. You always have the option to invoke your right to remain silent as well as your right to an attorney. It is smart to invoke these rights even if you are innocent because you never know when you could slip and say something the officers could use against you. A skilled Riverton City criminal defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC can help advise you on what to say and not to say to the police, and can be there for any interrogations to protect your rights. Call our Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer today at (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.