Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been stopped or arrested, you may have questions regarding your rights if a police officer approaches and asks questions, the difference between being stopped and arrested, and what your rights are upon being arrested. Although searching the internet is a great way to begin finding information on, speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney is best.
Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC is an experienced criminal defense attorney. Consult this FAQ to answer some of your questions. If questions remain, or you need legal representation, contact Johnson Legal, LLC at (614) 987-0192 to schedule a consultation.
Q. If the police approach and ask me questions?
A. If you are in a public place the police have the power to approach people and ask them questions. If approached and asked questions, you have no legal duty to answer their questions and you may refuse to answer. This is your right to silence. However, do not lie to the police because this can lead to being charged with “obstructing official business,” a 2nd degree misdemeanor.
What if the police say: “Stop. I need to ask you a few questions.” A person is “stopped” by the police if the police officer, by means of force or show of authority, restrains your freedom of movement. If the police “stop” you, they must have had a reasonable suspicion that you were involved in a crime. While being stopped does not mean that the police intend to arrest you, they most likely consider you a suspect. Upon being stopped, you have the right to refuse to answer any questions, except questions regarding your name, address and date of birth. Failing to provide this information can result in being charged with a 4th degree misdemeanor. Moreover, anything you say can and will be used against you as evidence.
Upon being stopped, you may also refuse to consent to any search of your person, vehicle or home. This will require the police officer to legally justify any search. However, under Ohio law, the police are authorized to conduct “pat-downs” in stop situations in order to search for weapons. The police are limited, under the “plain feel” exception – if an officer feels an object that has physical characteristics that make its identity immediately known, the officer may seize the evidence.
Q. If I am arrested?
A. A stop involves being questioned briefly. If the officer wishes to hold you for a longer period of time or wants to take you to the police station, you are being arrested. Police typically do not need a warrant to make a valid arrest in a public place, but the police generally need a warrant to arrest a person in their own home.
The power of the police to arrest a person differs depending on whether the officer saw the crime committed and whether the crime is a felony or misdemeanor. The following is a brief summary:
• The police may arrest a person that they witnessed commit a felony or misdemeanor. If the officer did not witness the felony, the officer may arrest anyone whom he has probable cause to believe has committed a felony.
• If the charge is for a minor misdemeanor (violation resulting in a fine, but no jail), the officer generally cannot arrest you. However, if you have failed to provide the officer with your name, address and date of birth, refused to sign the citation, or previously failed to appear in court for a similar offense, the officer may arrest you.
• You may be arrested pursuant to a warrant. This is irrespective of whether you knew a warrant for your arrest existed.
Q. What are my rights upon being arrested?
A. Upon being arrested, the police are required to read you your Miranda rights. This includes the right to remain silent; that any statement made by you may be used in court; your right to consult with an attorney and have an attorney present during any interrogation; and that an attorney will be appointed if you cannot afford one.
In addition, you have a right to be informed of the reason for your arrest and the charges against you, to contact someone to inform them of your arrest, and to refuse any physical or chemical test (such as a polygraph, breathalyzer, or field sobriety test).
You cannot be penalized by the police for refusing to answer their questions. However, cooperating with the police can create difficulties for you and your attorney later. Thus, it is wise to always ask to speak with an attorney.