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When can I refuse to answer police questions?

The idea of being questioned by police naturally makes many people in Connecticut nervous. No one wants to slip up and say the wrong thing that can be used against that person in a courtroom. Because of this possibility, it is important to know under what circumstances police may speak to you, and when you can refuse to answer their questions.

Findlaw points out a number of different scenarios where a police may try to ask you questions. Sometimes a police officer may stop you while you are walking out on the street to question you. In this instance, you are not required to be read your Miranda rights unless the police take you into custody and question you. In the Supreme Court decision Terry v. Ohio, the court ruled that police could stop a person on the street for the purposes of a brief interrogation without violating Fourth Amendment protections. However, the police should have specific facts that they can explain to justify stopping you.

Under this scenario, you are not required to answer police questions. Additionally, you can inquire if you are being detained. If the police make it clear that you are not being detained, you can halt the conversation and walk away from the questioning officer or officers. However, running away from the police can cause problems. If a person is in a neighborhood where there are high crime rates, running might provide police reasonable grounds to detain the individual.

Secondly, you could be asked by the police to voluntarily come in for questioning. Once again, the Supreme Court has ruled Miranda warnings do not need to be read if you have come to a police station under your own volition and have not been arrested. Since this is a request, you may decide to refuse the invitation or simply ignore it. However, police could then decide to arrest you if they have cause.

If for any reason you are placed under arrest, you will almost certainly be questioned. By this stage your right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment can be exercised, freeing you from an obligation to answer police questions. In an arrest scenario you are not permitted to walk away from police, but you can still insist on a right to legal counsel. However, it is important to clearly state you wish to speak to an attorney instead of hinting at it or even asking about it, as the police may still question you until you invoke your right to counsel.

This article is intended to educate readers on police questioning and is not to be taken as legal advice.

FindLaw Network