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Can the Police Arrest Me if I Refuse to Answer Their Questions?

When a police officer is staring you down with a list of questions – whether in a traffic stop, at your front door, or out in public – it can be hard to know what your rights are. You might have some sense that you do have rights, based on cop and lawyer shows you might have seen or news articles, but trying to figure those rights out in the moment and assert them is a challenge. One of the most well-known rights is the “right to remain silent,” but police officers certainly would not be questioning you with the hope that you do in fact remain silent. So when do you have the right to remain silent, and can the police arrest you if you refuse to answer their questions?

You Must Give Identifying Information, But Are Not Obliged to Answer Questions

Under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you do have the right not to incriminate yourself. What this means, among other things, is that you do not have to give the police information which would lead to your arrest and/or conviction. In addition, under the Sixth Amendment, you have the right to be represented by an attorney during all questioning by police, regardless of whether you have been charged with a crime.

Putting those two rights together, you are not required to answer questions for information posed by police, and you may ask for all questioning to cease until you are represented by an attorney. That said, the courts have said you do have to provide basic identifying information such as your name and a driver’s license. Also, many states (including Virginia) require drivers to submit to breathalyzer tests when under suspicion of drunk driving, and courts have approved such laws as constitutional.

Police Can Arrest You Regardless of Your Silence

The standard for when a police officer can arrest you is a separate matter from your right to remain silent during police questioning. To make an arrest, the police officer must have either an arrest warrant or probable cause that you committed the crime for which you are being arrested. Probable cause means that the officer reasonably believes that you committed the crime based on the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time the arrest is made.

Thus, if you remain silent, the police officer can arrest you, but only if there is probable cause to do so. Exercising your right to silence cannot be the basis for arresting you. But, if you do choose to speak to police, anything you say might be used as a basis for making an arrest.

Experienced Virginia Criminal Defense Attorneys On Your Side

If you have been arrested in Virginia, the criminal defense attorneys at Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC in Fredericksburg, Virginia, are here to help. We will fully investigate all potential defenses and do whatever it takes to protect your reputation and your future. Contact us today to schedule a consultation regarding your situation.