No, you do not. There is no obligation whatsoever for you to answer any question posed by a police officer. This is true regardless of whether you are in custody, or simply on the sidewalk. You DO NOT have to answer any questions. However, just because you have a constitutional right to refrain from answering anything, that doesn’t mean the cop will use a few methods to try and extract information from you.
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Very frequently, when a cop wants info from you, he or she will browbeat you until you answer. They’ll use intimidation or try and strike fear into you (or say things like, “It’s in your best interest if you answer my questions!!”). Or sometimes they’ll act as sweet as sugar, and act as if they are your best friend in the whole world. Either way, their plan and agenda is simple: they are trying to get you to divulge information that you are under no legal requirement to provide.
Now of course, when most people are met with an angry-sounding police officer in their face, asking questions and demanding answers, they put no thought into what may or may not be their Constitutional rights (or even if their Constitutional rights are being violated in that very moment). This is because most people aren’t aware that they even have a choice in the matter (in other words, they firmly believe that they have a duty or obligation to answer the cops’ questions).
Unfortunately, when this very thing happens, you could very easily make statements that can (and will) be used against you. When I tell people this, they very frequently go into “Law & Order” mode, and exclaim loudly that they weren’t even read their rights!! But a police officer has no duty to read your Miranda Rights to you unless or until you have been taken into custody.
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So if you are being questioned by an officer of the law, please keep in mind that you have no duty to answer their questions. And if the cop persists, you absolutely have the right to ask if you are in custody (or if you are able to leave freely). If the officer states that you cannot leave, then you should probably ask him/her about why your rights have not been read to you (as is required by the United State Supreme Court).
The affordable St. Louis criminal defense attorneys at Brinkman & Alter, LLC, have been helping people with their misdemeanor charges for over ten (10) years. Our goal is to make sure that the charges leveled against you do not stay on your permanent record, and do any lasting damage. And we want to do all of this at an affordable price. The fees for a typical misdemeanor case start at $375. But the initial consultation to discuss your legal issues is free of charge. So contact us today!!
We have two main locations: in the Central West End of St. Louis, at 1 North Taylor (on the corner of Taylor and Laclede), 63108; and in the Twin Cities of Festus / Crystal City, at 1000 Truman Blvd (Highway 61/67), 63019. The initial consultation is free of charge. So contact us today to learn more!!