What if you are hanging outside of your home, or in a public place, or even just walking down the street, when law enforcement approaches you and begin asking questions. As a criminal defense attorney in Ohio, I have seen people get in trouble for simply not knowing their rights when this happens.
Police do have a duty to protect and serve their community and the law gives them the power to be able to stop and ask questions in order to perform that duty, but just because they approach you does not mean that they suspect you of any wrongdoing. As citizens, we should cooperate, but we are also under no legal duty to answer questions, and to remain silent. What else should you do/not do?
- Use common sense. never run, argue or be contrary.
- Never lie – you can get in trouble for obstructing official business, but that does not mean to incriminate yourself. While it is a crime to lie to law enforcement it is your right to refuse to answer. Be polite, no matter how the officer is behaving. The best thing for you to do is to state that you refuse to answer any questions and that you want to speak to your criminal defense attorney.
- The only information you must give is your name and address. No need to show ID, driver’s license or give your social security number.
- Never consent to a search of yourself or your bags, backpacks, etc. Giving consent may waive your Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure and damage your defense in court. Never voluntarily consent to a search unless you have spoken to a criminal defense attorney first.
- Law enforcement don’t have to let you know if you are a suspect or that they have intentions of arresting you.
- Ohio law does allow some limited searches, like a pat down, to search for weapons. A police officer may stop and detain a person based on reasonable suspicion. And, if the police reasonably suspect the person is armed and dangerous, they may also frisk him or her for weapons.
The Bottom Line: Even if there are no grounds to arrest you, don’t argue or resist law enforcement. You may be arrested anyway, but the more you exercise your constitutional rights, the harder it will be to convict you. Never tell police “your side of the story”, that is what I am here for. 513-260-2099