In a word, yes.
You are required to identify yourself to the police in some situations, but aren’t obligated to answer questions beyond that. Washington law mandates that any person stopped for a traffic infraction must give his or her name and current address if requested by the officer. Although a police officer might say things that lead you to believe otherwise, you don’t have to respond to other lines of questioning.
So I can refuse a police interview, but should I?
Once again, the answer is yes.
Any information you provide to law enforcement can potentially be used against you if charges are filed, and that’s not a risk you want to take. It’s always in your best interest not to answer any questions until you’ve talked with a lawyer.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “If I haven’t done anything wrong, what’s the harm in answering an officer’s questions?” The police might even say something like this to you. However, you never know how your words or demeanor might be misconstrued by the officer documenting your conversation. Having your lawyer in the room when you are questioned will ensure you don’t end up in a situation where it’s the police officer’s word against yours. I’m sure you can guess whom a judge or jury will be more inclined to believe.
How should I assert my right to refuse an interview?
You should stay calm and be polite. If an officer is pressuring you to talk, you can simply say, “I don’t want to respond to any more questions” or “I’m exercising my right to remain silent.” Repeat this as many times as you have to. You don’t need to say anything else.
If you’re not sure whether you are free to leave, you can ask the officer, “Am I free to leave?” If the answer is yes, then you should go. If you have been arrested, you have the right to speak with an attorney. If you tell the police that you would like to speak with an attorney, they are not supposed to continue questioning you. If they do, you should continue to ask for an attorney and tell them know you will not answer any more questions until you have done so.
If you are the subject of a police investigation or questioning, the Marshall Defense Firm is here to help. Our experienced, skilled team of defense attorneys would be happy to discuss the matter with you. Please contact us at 206.826.1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.