Any crime drama aficionado knows about their right to remain silent when stopped by law enforcement. However, remaining silent can create more problems than it prevents. One attorney learned that when she was pulled over by New Jersey troopers last fall.
Dashboard camera video shows a trooper approaching the woman’s car and asking for her registration, driver’s license and insurance. He also asked if she knew why she was being stopped. Although she provided the documents, she didn’t respond to the question. The officer asked her again and told her that if she didn’t respond, he’d arrest her.
The officer, who appeared to become annoyed, then instructed her to get out of the car. At that point, she spoke — asking if she was being arrested for not responding to the question. He told her that her failure to respond constituted obstruction. She says that at least three troopers confirmed that not answering the officer’s original question was a criminal act.
The woman, who was placed in a holding cell, eventually received an apology from other law enforcement personnel and even the offer of a ride home. However, she has filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court because “there has to be some sort of accountability.”
It’s not clear why the woman refused to answer what is a standard question at a traffic stop. She says that she comes from a law enforcement family and understands that “cops have a difficult job to do.” According to the American Civil Liberties Union, if you choose to remain silent when stopped by law enforcement officers, you should state that fact to them.
It’s always best to remain courteous when stopped by police officers, regardless of how unfair you believe the stop is. It’s fine to exert your rights firmly but politely. There’s no reason to make a situation worse than it is. If you do find yourself in legal trouble for something you did or didn’t do during a traffic stop or arrest, an experienced Arkansas criminal defense attorney can work to help protect your rights and mitigate the consequences.
Source: Daily Kos, “Lawyer arrested when she remained silent during traffic stop by New Jersey troopers,” Walter Einenkel, May 09, 2016