The Right to Refuse: What is Your Legal Right During a Traffic Stop?

Updated on 08/09/2023 / Under

We have all heard it before, whether you are watching one of the thousand episodes of Law and Order or you have gone to any Cook County Court House and watched a criminal trial. The famous warnings you receive before being arrested for a criminal offense and traffic offense,

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?

These rights are known as the Miranda rights, and they are required to be read to you once you have been arrested for a crime. It may seem simple that you have the right to remain silent and that you have the right to an attorney, but knowing exactly when those rights kick in is important in any criminal investigation.

For example, when you are pulled over for driving under the influence of alcohol and a police officer requests that you take field sobriety tests, do you have the right to refuse without a criminal defense lawyer present for those tests? Or are you entitled to remain silent when you are pulled over for speeding and the police officer asks for your name and driver's license?

Chicago traffic lawyer Alex Ktenas

Just reading the Miranda warnings alone, you may think that you never need to speak or that you will always be able to have a criminal lawyer or traffic lawyer present with you at the scene. Unfortunately, your Miranda rights do not apply in every situation that involves a police officer.

Keep reading below to find out exactly when you can remain silent and when you are entitled to a Cook County criminal defense attorney or Chicago traffic attorney.

Stop and Identify Laws – Can Police Officers Pull You Over and Question You?

Imagine you are driving on the streets of Chicago and a police officer pulls you over, walks up to your car, and asks you to identify yourself. Can you refuse to identify yourself to the police officer and walk away? In Illinois, there is a stop and Identify law which states,

(a) A peace officer, after having identified himself as a peace officer, may stop any person in a public place for a reasonable period of time when the officer reasonably infers from the circumstances that the person is committing, is about to commit or has committed an offense as defined in Section 102-15 of this Code, and may demand the name and address of the person and an explanation of his actions. Such detention and temporary questioning will be conducted in the vicinity of where the person was stopped.

What the Stop and Identify law mean, is that if the police officer reasonably believes that you are committing a crime or about to commit a crime, then they can ask you to identify yourself and you would be required to give them your name.

Now, it is important to keep in mind that after you give the police officer your name, you do not need to speak to them any further about what the police officer believes you are doing. If the police officer does not have a reasonable belief that you are committing or about to commit a crime than he should not have stopped you and you do not need to identify yourself.

The Right to Have a Chicago traffic Attorney Present During a Traffic Stop

Once the police officer has pulled you over during a traffic stop and begins to question you about a traffic violation he believes you committed, can you request an attorney to be present?

During a police officer's investigation, you do not have the right to have an attorney present.

The right to a Chicago traffic attorney or a Cook County defense attorney only kicks in after you have been arrested and have been charged with a crime. You can still consult a criminal defense lawyer and have an attorney present for questioning but you do not have a constitutional right to an attorney until you have been arrested. A police officer is free to continue his investigation and ask questions up until you are under arrest.

Once you have been arrested for a traffic offense or criminal offense, then the police officer is required to read you the Miranda rights. If the police officer does not read you the Miranda warnings and he begins to question you about the crime, then your criminal defense attorney can get the statements thrown out in court. And all that evidence cannot be used against you at trial.

It is your constitutional right to have a criminal defense lawyer or traffic attorney present once you have been arrested and the police officers being to question you BUT remember that you have to request to have an attorney present for that right to kick in!

Your Rights During a DUI Investigation | How can You Lose Your License?

So, we already know that once a police officer has reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime and the police officer can pull you over and you are required to identify yourself and give him your license. But what happens if the police officer begins to investigate you for a DUI and asks you to do field sobriety tests?

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a criminal charge and the constitution guarantees us the right to not self incriminate ourselves. Wouldn’t a police officer force you to do field sobriety tests also constitute self-incrimination?

Can I Refuse to Take Field Sobriety Tests?

A Police officer cannot force you to take field sobriety tests or force you to give a Breathalyzer test. You have the right to refuse all the tests and avoid incriminating yourself.

All that is required in a DUI investigation is that you identify yourself by giving the police officer your driver’s license and your insurance card. Whenever you are pulled over for a DUI investigation, a police officer will begin to question you about your drinking and where you were coming from. REMEMBER, you are not required to answer any of his questions and you are not required to take any tests.

Why Does Your License get Suspended for Refusing to Take Field Sobriety Tests?

It is very important to know that if you choose to remain silent during a police officers investigation and refuse to do field sobriety tests, then your driver’s license will be suspended for refusing to comply with the police officers request to take field sobriety tests.

what is the right to refuse

You may be wondering, “How can your driver's license be suspended if you are just exercising your right to remain silent?” The answer is very simple; Illinois has an implied consent law" where a suspension of your driver’s license for refusal to take a breathalyzer test is considered a civil punishment and not a criminal punishment.

Under Illinois’s implied consent law, any person who drives or is in “actual physical control” of a motor vehicle is deemed to have given consent to chemical testing of breath, blood, urine, and/or another bodily substance.

What that means is that your right to remain silent and your right against self-incrimination does not apply to civil punishments but only for criminal punishments. Therefore, you have the right to refuse the DUI tests to not incriminate yourself for the criminal charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, but you do not have the constitutional right to refuse the DUI tests and still keep your license (because losing your license is a civil punishment).

Most importantly, keep in mind that once your license has been suspended for refusing to take a field sobriety test, you can have a hearing to get your license back! Check out this article to see how to get your license back after it has been suspended for DUI.

What Should I do When I am Stopped for DUI?

Now that you have an understanding of your rights when it comes to being investigated for DUI and other traffic violations by a police officer, you should know exactly what to do during the stop.

If you have been stopped by a police officer and the officer begin to investigate you, then you should politely give him your driver’s license, insurance card, and your vehicle's registration. After you give those documents to the officer, if he begins to question you about any traffic violation or question if you have been drinking, you should respectfully tell the police officer that you do not wish to answer any of his questions.

If the officer requests you to get out of your car, you must comply with his request and you should still refuse to talk about anything further.

If the police officer requests you to do field sobriety tests or take a breathalyzer test, you should once again politely refuse to take the tests to avoid incriminating yourself.

If the officer places you under arrest, and he attempts to question you after he has given you the Miranda warnings then you should request to talk to your Chicago DUI attorney. Once you request to talk to a criminal attorney or traffic lawyer then the police officer is required to stop questioning you until your attorney is present.

Get in Touch with a Chicago Traffic Lawyer

Your rights against self-incrimination and your rights to have an attorney present are very important, at Ktenas Law we are here to help defend your rights and help you through the difficult times. Call today if you would like a free consultation on your criminal and traffic rights!