Seemingly innocent questions from police may lead to OWI charge

Most Wisconsin residents want to trust law enforcement officers. They can help in times of emergency, and they work to uphold the law. However, upholding the law may mean questioning you if they believe you have committed a crime. In such a situation, you may want to maintain a healthy skepticism of what their actions mean.

In particular, if a police officer stops your vehicle and suspects you of OWI, it is likely that he or she will ask you several questions. While some of the questions may seem friendly or as if the officer is simply trying to make conversation while gathering your identification and vehicle information, remember that your answers to these questions could still be used against you.

Remain on alert

A traffic stop may understandably make you feel nervous. After all, no one wants to end up talking with police with the potential of facing punishment if the officer suspects wrongdoing. Due to your nerves, you may think the officer is posing unrelated questions to you in efforts to put you at ease. Some questions the officer may ask you include:

  • Where are you coming from?
  • What have you done today?
  • Do you have any medical conditions that could affect your driving?
  • How has your day been?
  • What have you had to drink tonight?
  • How long have you been driving?
  • Does your vehicle have any problems?

Because some of these questions seem harmless, you may choose to answer. However, answering any of these open-ended questions could result in you giving more information than necessary, and some of that information could inadvertently incriminate you.

Example scenario

To give you an example of how these questions could result in evidence against you, consider the following scenario:

  • An officer asks what you have done today.
  • You answer by saying you went out with friends.
  • The officer asks where you went.
  • You answer by saying a bar, restaurant or even a live show, perhaps.
  • The officer then asks what you had to drink.
  • You answer a beer or two or maybe another alcoholic beverage.
  • Your answer gives the officer evidence that you have consumed alcohol.

You may not have thought much of answering the first few questions because they seemed like small talk. However, as the example shows, you could end up incriminating yourself during the conversation, which is what the officer wants. As a result, you may want to exercise your right to remain silent when questioned by police.

In the event that you do face criminal charges for OWI, you may also want to exercise your other legal rights, including the right to an attorney.

I have more questions. Where can I get answers?

At Nicholson Goetz & Otis, S.C., our experienced criminal defense attorneys understand the difficult situation you are facing and can help you understand your legal rights and options. Contact our office at 608-620-0018 to discuss your particular case and circumstances.