The Raleigh Police Department produced a short video entitled “Traffic Stops: What to Expect as a Motorist,” instructing drivers who have been pulled over by law enforcement on how they should behave. The video has been viewed over 8,800 times on YouTube.
Stop Must Be Supported by Reasonable Suspicion
The Raleigh police officer in the video correctly states that a traffic stop must be supported “by reasonable suspicion based on facts the officer can articulate.” So the police must have a good reason to pull you over.
Duty to Answer the Stopping Officer’s Questions
The officer says, “Answer any questions the officer may have fully and clearly.” This is not a correct version of the law. Under North Carolina law, a person operating a motor vehicle must identify himself or herself when requested to do so by an officer.
Beyond identifying yourself and providing license and registration, the law DOES NOT require you to answer any other police questions. You have the right to remain silent. Particularly in the DWI context anything you say to an officer may give him probable cause to arrest you for DWI (i.e. “where were you coming from?” “Were you just at that bar?” “What were you doing at that bar?”). If the police officer’s questions are unrelated to the purpose of the stop, prolong it, and are not supported by reasonable suspicion of a crime, they may violate the 4th amendment. As an example, an officer may not extend a routine traffic stop to ask questions about drug activity. As a matter of common sense if you’re going to refuse to answer questions it’s best to be polite and respectful when doing it. Try “I’m going to respectfully refuse to answer any of your questions as I’ve already provided you with my identity and my license and registration.” Being nice when declining to answer questions can always help.
Does Miranda Apply?
Generally, Miranda protections don’t apply to questioning of a motorist during a routine traffic stop because the motorist isn’t in custody. The Miranda warning only comes into play when there is police questioning during a custodial interrogation. However, Miranda warnings are required if the officer arrests the driver or takes actions that constitute the functional equivalent of an arrest. Mainly the point is to just refuse to answer questions at all stages as you have a right to remain silent.
Consent Searches of Your Vehicle
In the video, after the infraction has been addressed and the traffic stop completed, the officer seeks consent to extend the interaction by asking for consent to search the car. We always recommend that you never give the police consent to search your vehicle. Once they have that consent they can search your entire car and find things that may not belong to you.
Call Raleigh Traffic Ticket Lawyer Wiley Nickel
If you are pulled over and receive a traffic citation, DWI or other criminal charge contact The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC for a free consultation. We handle cases in Wake County, North Carolina. Our office is located in Cary and we can be reached at 919-585-1486.