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Could answering a simple question incriminate you?

Going out for a few drinks with friends may be a pastime you enjoy. Settling in behind a few beers or other alcoholic beverages may give you time to catch up on your week and inform your friends about any news in your life. Of course, at the end of the night, you want to get home safely, so you curb your drinking to a responsible amount.

Still, on your way home, a police officer may have pulled over your vehicle because you had a tail light out or for some other reason completely unrelated to drinking and driving. However, after approaching you, an officer may suspect that you consumed alcohol before getting behind the wheel. The officer may ask whether you have been drinking, but should you answer?

Remaining silent

As part of your constitutional rights, you do not have to answer questions posed to you by police officers. However, authorities do not have to inform you of your right to remain silent and other Miranda rights until they have taken you into custody and you face interrogation. As a result, if a police officer has not placed you under arrest, he or she can ask you questions without having to first read your Miranda rights.

Self-incrimination

When an officer seemingly innocently asks if you have been drinking, your first instinct may be to answer honestly. After all, the officer has not asked you to step out of the vehicle or indicated that you are in trouble, and you know you did not drink enough to become intoxicated. However, if you answer yes and the officer suspects impairment, the answer you gave could be used against you.

When you provide a statement that can act as evidence against you, that action is known as self-incrimination. Your Miranda rights protect you from self-incrimination, but because you are not under arrest, you may think that you are not incriminating yourself by answering an officer's questions. Though officers have not taken you into custody, you still have the right to remain silent.

Exercising your rights

In many cases, if police have stopped your vehicle and suspect OUI, your best bet is to remain silent. Even without an officer informing you of this right, you can still choose to exercise it. In the event that an officer does arrest you for OUI in Massachusetts, you have the opportunity to create and present a criminal defense against those allegations.

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Anthony M. Salerno, P.C.
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Worcester, MA 01608

Phone: 508-795-1200
Fax: 508-795-1333
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