What Should I Do If I Get Arrested In Vermont? (Part II)
At this point the officer has to consciously choose to either arrest you or get a warrant or take a chance and hope they have enough evidence to proceed without your permission. But remember, you should be polite and respectful the whole time, always addressing them as “officer,” “trooper” or whatever their respectful title is. They typically appreciate this and will address you with similar courtesy.
Do I have to answer the officer’s questions?
Not engaging with them and not consenting to their requests is imperative. Don’t try to be “nice” by talk to the officer. Everything you say can have a serious impact on your possible defenses. Vermont defense courts routinely find that the officer proceeded with the defendant’s consent, either searching the car or answering questions or voluntarily being detained. For example, at a traffic stop you might be asked – yes, asked, “Would you get out of the car, please?” Or, “Would you open the trunk?” These are questions, not orders. Police go to an academy to learn how to get you to do things without them having to get a warrant or having probable cause to proceed, to allow them to fish a little. You have the right to decline that “invitation” and ask the officer to clarify if you are being ordered to get out of the car or open the trunk. Instead ask if you are being ordered to do these things and whether you are free to go. He or she has to make some pretty important choices at this juncture. You have just waived a huge red Constitutional Law flag in their face. You, unlike the countless compliant sheep they are used to confronting, are actually (politely) asserting your rights. NO ONE does that. It takes courage. Should the officer tell you to get out of the car, comply while observing that you are doing so under protest and immediately request the assistance of an attorney.
Can an officer search my property without my consent?
Depending on the circumstances, unless the officer has probable cause or a reasonable, articulable suspicion that illegal behavior has or is occurring, they must obtain a warrant to proceed. However, if you voluntarily consent to the proceeding they do not need a warrant. By asking now and again (prior to any possible arrest) if you are free to leave, they must continually make a proceed/don’t proceed decision. The import of this is not lost on them.
If you are have been arrested in Vermont, please contact experienced Vermont attorney, Kevin Volz, at 802.775.0700.