What Happens if I Refuse to Answer Police Questions?

During interactions with the police, your right to remain silent is protected by the US Constitution. In Minnesota, you cannot be arrested just for refusing to answer questions asked by the police.

What happens if you refuse to answer police questions depends on the type of encounteryou are having.

Types of Police Encounters

Generally speaking, there are three ways the public interacts with police:

  1. Voluntary encounters
  2. Investigatory encounters
  3. An arrest

Voluntary Encounters

You are walking down the street when you pass a police officer walking in the other direction. The officer says, “Hi,” and starts making small talk. This is an example of a voluntary encounter.

During a voluntary encounter, you are free to engage as little or as much as you’d like. It’s no different than if a stranger started talking to you on the street. Just remember to be polite and courteous.

If the police start asking questions about where you live or where you are going, you can ask, “Am I being detained?” If they say, “No,” you are still involved in a voluntary encounter. Then ask, “Am I free to go?” If you are free to leave, calmly walk away.

During a voluntary encounter with police in Minnesota, you also have the right to refuse to show your ID. In several other states, you must show your ID to police most times that they ask for it. These states are called “stop and identify” states. If you’re going to be traveling or spending time in another state, it’s important to know the laws there.

Investigatory Encounters

If the police say they are detaining you and that you are not free to go, that is an investigatory encounter. Police can briefly stop and question you if they have a reasonable suspicion that you are, were, or will be involved in a crime. During an investigatory encounter, the police can also do a pat-down of your clothing to check for weapons.

While you’re being detained, you have to use your best judgment in answering questions. For example, you may have been stopped because you resemble a burglary suspect. Answering questions may help clear up a case of mistaken identity.

However, you always have the right to remain silent. You can ask to speak with an attorney at any time. Whether or not you answer police questions during an investigatory encounter, there is the possibility that you will be arrested.


If you are arrested, stay calm. It is in your best interest to remain silent.

Don’t try to explain your situation or make excuses. Any statements you make during an arrest will certainly be used against you.

Tell the police you want to speak with an attorney.

Special Considerations: Driving a Vehicle

If you are driving a vehicle in Minnesota, you must respond to the police’s request for your license and proof of insurance.

If you are further questioned by the police, you can ask, “Am I being detained?” to determine what type of encounter you are having.

Tips for Interacting with the Police

When involved in any type of police encounter, do:

  • Be respectful
  • Stay calm
  • Ask, “Am I being detained? Am I free to go?
  • Remember that you can speak with an attorney before answering questions

When interacting with police, don’t:

  • Run away from the police
  • Interfere with what the police are doing
  • Be disrespectful or rude
  • Resist arrest

Aggressive Defense Attorney in Minneapolis

If you’ve been arrested or charged with a crime, give Anderson Law Firm, PLLC, a call. Attorney Kirk M. Anderson’s practice is largely focused on criminal defense.

He’s successfully represented defendants in a full range of misdemeanor and felony charges. Contact us today to set up your free consultation.

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DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.