Jurisdiction: Anywhere United States

Valid driver license is provided during the stop, along with insurance and registration as required by the traffic code.

Fifth Amendment provides a right against self incrimination. The law legally obligates a person to poses a driver license to operate a vehicle. Other than presenting a valid driver license, is a person required to answer any questions asked by a police officer?


I am driving in Dallas, Texas. I exceed speed limit by five miles. A police officer pulls me over for speeding. He approaches the window and asks for my ID. I provide a valid driver licence.

The Officer Asks me: Where are you coming from? Where are you going to? Have you had something to drink? Etc...

I respond: I am only required to provide you with a valid driver license. I do not have to answer any of your questions.

I remain silent.

I have broken no law. Right?

Further, if police officer calls for back up, and searches my vehicle over my vociferous objections, I would have a valid §1983 Complaint for "unlawful search and seizure."

Is my understanding correct?

  • 3
    See Michigan v. DeFillippo 443 U.S. 31, 46 (1979) ("Individuals who chose to remain silent would be forced to relinquish their right not to be searched (and indeed would risk conviction on the basis of any evidence seized from them), while those who chose not to be searched would be forced to forgo their constitutional right to remain silent. Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 13:09
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    @Ivan That decision was not about a suspect who invoked the 5th amendment and nothing else. "When asked for identification, respondent gave inconsistent and evasive responses"supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/443/31 Giving inconsistent responses is necessarily not claiming 5A.
    – Matt
    Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 22:22
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    Exactly, I don't disagree with that. But, in the dissent, the Supreme Court emphases that silence, cannot serve as a reason for probable cause. If you hold your silence, there is no inconsistent responses right? Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 8:36
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    @pboss3010 exercising a right cannot be grounds for suspicion. Otherwise a refusal to consent to a search would be grounds for a search, which would be a truly absurd result.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 10:14
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    Sure, in the abstract. If there's anything wrong with the car, no matter how minor, you're going to get a ticket. And don't think there aren't cops who'll claim that he thought he saw drug paraphernalia or smelled something.
    – pboss3010
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 12:36

1 Answer 1


Silence is not cause. However, this may not prevent a search. The officer does not need to tell you that he has probable cause, he must simply have it in order to conduct a search. If he obtained the probable cause before he pulled you over (this is likely), then he will order you out of the car and search over your vociferous (and silent?) objections.

If the officer does not have probable cause, searches anyway, and can't come up with a convincing one in time for the court date, then yes you have a claim. But remember, just because the officer didn't inform you of the cause doesn't mean it didn't exist.

Always consult an attorney before any legal action.


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