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Do I have to talk to the police if they stop me?

When the police stop you while driving or stop you in the street, they may ask you a lot of questions. What happens if you don’t answer them?

When the police talk to you, you have the right to remain silent, and it is often wise to exercise that right. Otherwise, the police may use anything you say against you later. 

You do have to identify yourself — but little more

Your right to remain silent does not mean you can carry on walking or driving without stopping when requested to do so by the police — that could lead to a dangerous situation. It could also lead to your arrest. 

You do need to identify yourself to the police when stopped if you want to avoid a problematic situation or an arrest for obstruction of justice — but you are not required to say anything more (and you probably shouldn’t) about where you were going, where you’ve been or what you’ve been doing.

Why is it better to stay quiet?

When the police approach you to talk, they are usually looking for information. It may be information about you or information about someone else. Remember, the police cannot prosecute people for crimes if they do not have facts. Hence, any officer who has served for more than a few weeks will have developed various ways to get people to tell them the information they need.

A police officer could act all friendly and hope you will trust them enough to tell them things. Or they could try to scare you into speaking by suggesting they have information on you and will make your life difficult if you do not speak up.

The right to remain silent is not your only right. You also have the right to speak to an attorney. Understanding how to react when the police question you can be confusing, and having someone to look after you can help you avoid saying something that leads to criminal charges