Your Rights and Responsibilities - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do I have to answer questions asked by law enforcement officers?
A: No. You do not have to answer any questions. You cannot be punished for refusing to answer a question. You can ask to speak to a lawyer before agreeing to answer questions.

Q: Are there any exceptions to the general rule that I do not have to answer questions?
A: Yes. Remember, according to University policy, students and university employees are required to identify themselves to any university official, including a Notre Dame police or campus safety officer. If you are driving and you are stopped for a traffic violation, the officer can require you to show your license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.

Q: Must an officer read me Miranda?
A: The Miranda warning (the right to remain silent, the right to have counsel present during questioning, etc.) is only required when the person is in custody and is questioned or interrogated. The term “in custody" is complex and each situation is different, but it essentially means that the person is not free to leave and is under police control, for example in a police station interview room. “Questioning” or “interrogation” refers to anything said or done by the officer which is projected to or is likely to encourage an incriminating response. Asking for your name and address are not necessarily incriminating. Asking “what happened here” as officers arrive on a scene is not incriminating.

Q: Must I submit to a Portable Breath Test (PBT)?
A: You can refuse to submit to a PBT, yet keep in mind that officers use the PBT as a preliminary test to determine your level of intoxication out of concern for safety. On a traffic stop a PBT may be used as part of field sobriety testing to determine if probable cause for impairment exists. On campus, officers may be using a PBT to help determine if it is safe to release a potentially intoxicated person to go on his or her way, if he or she needs to be turned over to a responsible sober person, or if medical attention is needed. If someone refuses to take a PBT and officers are concerned for the safety of that person, officers may end up deciding to arrest the person to ensure that he or she will be monitored until it is safe for them to be released. When officers ask you to submit to a PBT, they believe that it’s in your best interest to comply.

Q: What is reasonable suspicion?
A: A reasonable suspicion exists when a reasonable person under the circumstances, would, based upon specific and articulable facts, suspect that a crime has been committed.

Q: What is probable cause?
A: Probable cause refers to facts or evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed. Probable cause is a higher standard of proof than reasonable suspicion.

Q: What is a verbal warning?
A: The officer may simply talk with you about the reason for the stop.

Q: What is a written warning?
A: The officer may issue a written warning. This written warning will not result in any fines or points on your driving record and generally will not require any follow-up action on your part.

Q: What is a citation?
A: The officer may issue you a citation or Uniform Traffic Ticket for an infraction (violation of the state traffic code). They may ask you to sign the citation. Signing is not an admission of guilt, but rather an acknowledgement that you received your copy of the citation. The citation will have instructions for on how to resolve the citation. Generally you will have the option to pay a fine or contest the citation in court. Often there will be a phone number for you to contact on the citation. You may also be contacted by mail with instructions for the citation. If the address on your driver’s license is not the address where you receive your mail, you will want to let the officer know. If you do not resolve the citation in certain period of time established by the courts, the penalties can become more severe and could even result in a warrant being issued for your arrest, so it is important to contact the court and find out the appropriate way to resolve the citation.

Q: What is a summons?
A: For some misdemeanors, a police officer may write you a summons to appear in court instead of taking you to jail. The summons is on the same form as a citation or Uniform Traffic Ticket. The police officer will ask you to sign the ticket. Signing the ticket is not an admission of guilt, but a promise to appear in court when summoned. If you refuse to sign, the police officer may take you to jail for the misdemeanor. Receiving a ticket for a misdemeanor may go on your record as an arrest for the misdemeanor in question, even if you do not go to jail.

Q: What is an arrest?
A: For most misdemeanors and felonies, a police officer may take you into custody and take you to jail. Depending on the circumstances, you may have the opportunity to post bail and bond out of jail. Other times, you may have to appear before a judge before you can bond out. Either way there will likely be a follow up criminal justice proceeding of some sort to resolve the issue.

Q: What if I am an international student or foreign national and I am arrested?
A: If foreign nationals in the United States are arrested or detained, they must be told that they may have their country’s embassy or consulate notified, and officials from the embassy or consulate must be allowed access to them upon request. In some cases, the foreign embassy must be notified regardless of the individual’s wishes.

Q: What if I am unsure if the person trying to stop me is a police officer?
A: In Indiana, only police vehicles are permitted to have both blue and red lights. By law if a police officer wants to pull you over for a traffic violation, he/she must either be operating a marked police vehicle OR be wearing a uniform. If you are at all concerned that the person who stopped you is not actually a police officer (for example, if the car that pulled you over is an unmarked police car), choose the following option(s) that make you feel safest.

  • Roll the window down slightly or talk through the window and ask to see the officer’s photo identification along with his/her badge.
  • Ask that the officer call a uniformed supervisor to the scene.
  • Request that you be allowed to follow the officer to the police station.
  • Turn on your flashing hazard indicators and slowly drive to a police/fire station or a location where there are people and plenty of light. Turning on your hazard indicators let the police officer know that you have seen him/her. Do not drive fast, or the officer may believe you are trying to elude him/her.
  • Call 911, or (574) 631-5555 if on campus, and let the dispatcher know your location and your concern about the identity of the person attempting to stop you. The dispatcher should be able to help you find out if the person is a police officer or not.