Being stopped by a Massachusetts law enforcement officer while behind the wheel can be a frustrating experience. The protocol associated with a traffic stop alone can be problematic, as the investigation begins immediately before being questioned about a driving decision. Officers can often peer directly into any vehicle in search of unlawful activity before they even begin talking. The real question often becomes, are drivers required to answer? The short answer is “yes,” but it is not an unlimited yes. Drivers in Massachusetts do have a right to stop answering questions beyond a certain point in an OUI/DUI investigation.
Necessary information disclosures
Police are allowed by traffic stop protocol to request a valid drivers license and vehicle registration when talking to a motorist. Additionally, drivers are required to provide insurance information. Identification and auto documentation is all that is required to be provided. Officers are not allowed to stop drivers at random, so they may also state why they initiated the stop and ask questions regarding the issue. However, the real truth is that they are looking for signs of driving under the influence or other criminal activity, which means it is time to begin thinking in terms of a criminal defense strategy to any potential charges.
When answering questions might be better
Another real truth about being stopped by a police officer is that they are actually looking for reasonable suspicion of any unlawful activity. They must have demonstrated reasonable suspicion to then investigate for probable cause, and failure to establish suspicion can be central to a drunk driving defense. Drivers do have the right to not speak, but that will give the officer reasonable suspicion to request a warrant from a judge for a breath or blood test, or to administer a field sobriety test. Additionally, a driver may be instructed to get out of the vehicle and be searched for weapons without an additional request for permission.
Refusing to answer questions is a right of any driver, but it sometimes results in a less desirable outcome. Those who do not want to answer questions due to potential self-incrimination should instead ask to speak with an attorney.