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How should you handle questions from the police?

You may find yourself face-to-face with a police officer asking questions. No matter the reasons for the inquiries, you deserve to know how to handle the situation.

The ACLU helps New York citizens understand and protect their rights. Learn when to speak and when to remain silent.

Answering questions asked by the police

No matter if police arrest, jail or detain you, you have the right to remain silent. Law enforcement cannot punish you for exercising this right. While a judge has the power to compel a citizen to answer a question, it still makes sense to consult with a legal representative before responding to inquiries.

Understanding exceptions to the rule

Depending on the state, a citizen may need to give police her or his name when stopped by police and asked for ID. Even then, the person need not answer other questions. Another expectation to not having to answer police questions is when an officer pulls a person over for a traffic violation. In that scenario, the person must show her or his vehicle registration, license and proof of insurance. Again, citizens do not have to give additional information or answer further questions.

Talking to the police anyway

Despite the right not to, a person may speak with police voluntarily. U.S. citizens have the right to stop answering police questions whenever they wish. Parties must answer questions honestly, as lying to the police may put a person in legal hot water.

Parties suspected of committing a crime deserve to avoid implicating themselves in illegal acts. Staying silent in the presence of police could help a person avoid a legal fiasco.