Interacting with the police is not usually an experience people seek. It is intimidating to speak with a law enforcement officer even when you have done nothing wrong.
You have rights and responsibilities when you interact with the police, whether it’s voluntarily or involuntarily. Knowing these rights and having a list of questions helps protect you from unnecessary and unpleasant consequences.
Here are seven questions to ask when interacting with the police in Ohio.
1. Am I Under Arrest?
In their capacity to protect and serve, police have the authority to stop and question individuals. They don’t have to tell you why – and you don’t have to answer any questions other than providing your name, address, and date of birth if asked. Refusing to give your name, address, and date of birth is an arrestable offense.
If you are in your car, you must provide your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance if asked. Passengers must give their name, address, and date of birth if an officer requests.
After providing legally required information, ask if the officer is arresting or detaining you. If they aren’t, you are free to go.
Your Rights If Stopped by Police
- Police officers have the right to check you for weapons (pat you down).
- If you are stopped and given a ticket, sign it, or you can be arrested.
- Police may search your car without a warrant if they have reasonable suspicion of a crime (for example, you smell like alcohol or marijuana).
- Don’t try to run away or drive off from a police stop.
2. Do You Have a Warrant (and May I See It)?
The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unlawful searches. You can allow police to search your home if you consent, but you are not required to let officers enter your home without a warrant.
You can refuse a police search until you see a warrant signed by a judge.
Exceptions to Search & Seizure Warrants
- Police hear screams for help inside the house
- Police are chasing a suspect who runs into your home or on your property
- Police with reason to believe that someone in the house is destroying evidence
- Police see illegal items are in plain view in a space where they are lawfully allowed, such as in a home with the owner’s consent or a public place
3. Why Are You Arresting Me?
You have a constitutional right to know why you were arrested and the nature of the charges against you. If the police have an arrest warrant, you have a right to read it.
According to the Ohio Bar Association, the police don’t need an arrest warrant. If police witnessed you committing a crime or have probable cause to suspect you of that crime, they could arrest you. If there is a warrant for your arrest, they must take you to the station, even if you believe the warrant to be in error.
Your Rights If Arrested
- You have the right to remain silent. Exercise it.
- Be read your Miranda rights.
- Right to speak privately to an attorney.
- Right to make a phone call about your arrest (you can call someone else if the first person is unavailable).
- Right to refuse a drug test, polygraph (lie detector), and any other type of test.
4. Must I Be Handcuffed?
You can ask the arresting officer to skip the handcuffs. Depending on the nature of the charges, your demeanor, and the perceived threat to the officer’s safety, you can avoid handcuffs.
It might not be up to the officer to waive the handcuffs. Individual law enforcement agencies may require officers to handcuff all arrestees.
Dos and Don’ts During Arrest
- Do clearly state that you are exercising your right to remain silent and want an attorney.
- Do remember the officers’ names if you believe they violated your civil rights.
- Do take deep breaths and try to remain calm.
- Don’t argue with police officers about the arrest or the validity of the charges.
- Don’t resist arrest and keep your hands in plain sight.
- Don’t swear or yell at the arresting officers.
5. May I Call an Attorney?
Trick question – yes, you have the right to call an attorney. It is a civil rights violation if you clearly request a lawyer but are denied this right. You also have the right to contact a responsible person and tell them that you’ve been arrested.
However, anything you say can be used against you by the prosecution. Police officers can even eavesdrop on the phone calls that you make from the station – except calls to an attorney. When your attorney arrives, the police must give you time alone.
You do not – and should not – answer any questions until your attorney is with you.
Juveniles Have the Right to Counsel
Individuals under 18 have the same right to speak to an attorney as an adult. If your minor child calls you from a police station, tell them not to answer any questions and that you are contacting an attorney for them. Parents might want to speak to the processing or arresting officer to wait until their child’s attorney arrives before questioning them.
6. Am I Eligible for Bail?
Depending on the nature of the crime, you might be eligible for bail on the same day as your arrest. Bail is a promise that you will return for all court hearings and appointments, remain in the jurisdiction and agree to any other conditions.
Some police stations can process your bail payment on-site. Otherwise, you’ll have to see a judge and request bail.
- You don’t have to pay the entire amount at once. A standard bail bond requires a deposit of 10% of the stated bond amount.
- Unless you fail to appear, most of this deposit is refunded back to you. The court keeps about ten percent of your deposit for processing and administrative fees.
- You receive your entire deposit if you are found not guilty or the charges are dismissed.
7. When Do I See a Judge?
The police cannot keep you indefinitely without a hearing. Within 72 hours or sooner, you will appear before a judge. The judge reads and explains the charges against you. You have the right to ask for these charges in writing. You’ll also enter your plea to the alleged crimes: guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
Understanding Plea Choices
- If you plead guilty, you lose your right to remain silent and for a trial.
- If you plead no contest, you admit that the facts of the case are true but deny guilt.
- If you plead not guilty, you have the right to defend yourself to a judge or jury.
An attorney can advise you on how to plead, but it is your decision. You are encouraged to talk to a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after an arrest.
Have Questions for an Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyer?
Criminal charges can have life-long consequences. If you’ve been arrested or are a person of interest in an active police investigation, get help from an Ohio criminal defense attorney.
Our criminal defense attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates aggressively represent clients to obtain the best possible outcome. We treat clients with the compassion and respect they deserve.