Is the police officer just being friendly?

No one likes to see those blue flashing lights in their rear-view mirror. More than likely, your nerves are on edge as you wait for the officer to come to your window. Maybe you had a glass of wine with dinner and wonder if that is the reason you now sit waiting. 

As the two of you begin conversing, the officer may start talking to you in a friendly and non-confrontational manner. Even though you want to think he or she is trying to put you at ease, don't let your guard down. That friendliness is a way to get you to answer questions you may not otherwise want to answer.

The real motivation behind the small talk

Some officers are friendly, but their primary motivation for stopping you was not to chitchat. Instead, the officer is attempting to gather enough evidence to establish probable cause that you were drunk driving. Even though the officer may stop you based only on reasonable suspicion, an arrest requires the higher standard of probable cause. Since most people would not voluntarily incriminate themselves, getting you to let your guard down is essential.

At the same time, the officer evaluates your appearance, behavior, speech and other factors that could indicate impairment. The longer you talk, the longer he or she has to conduct this evaluation. In addition, people tend to reveal more information the longer they talk. For this reason, officers will ask you open-ended questions that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer.

They will also only speak occasionally. When people are nervous, they tend to talk more in order to fill the silence. This is when you may give the officer more information than you intended.

Don't give in to the temptation

An officer doesn't have to place you under arrest for you to take advantage of your Constitutional rights. You don't have to answer any questions other than the basic identification questions. You can politely decline to engage in conversation and invoke your right to remain silent. This may not prevent the officer from arresting you, but at least you are not providing him or her with additional "evidence" of your impairment.

At the same time, you may also assert other rights as well. Perhaps you didn't know that you are not legally obligated to participate in field sobriety tests, and you probably shouldn't since far too many factors can cause you to "fail" them.

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