When a law enforcement officer asks you a question, you do not have a legal obligation to respond. Should the officer ask you to produce identification, you must do so, but that is the extent of information you need to provide. At this point, you do not need to volunteer any more information or answer questions.
Your right to remain silent during police questioning stems from your Constitutional and Miranda rights.
The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the Constitution are most relevant during police questioning. The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. Under this amendment, you have the right to say no if an officer asks if they can search you or your belongings.
The Fifth Amendment gives you the right against self-incrimination, meaning the right to remain silent. The Sixth Amendment is the right to counsel. When faced with criminal prosecution you have the right to an attorney.
In the case Miranda v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court outlined the warning that officers read to anyone placed under arrest. Under this 1996 case, the Miranda warning became law as a way to protect your Fifth Amendment rights. Your Miranda rights are as follows:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- The prosecution can use anything you say against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to an attorney.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one for you.
Overall, familiarizing yourself with your rights may help protect you against self-incrimination during interactions with the police.