Interacting with a police officer can be intimidating and frightening. Even though you have done nothing wrong, you need to treat the encounter with a police officer seriously. Your actions and what you say during the encounter can impact what happens next.
Here are 6 questions you should ask during interactions with the police, according to our experienced criminal defense lawyers at James D. Owen, LLC.
What Do I Do if a Police Officer Stops Me?
Understanding what to do and what questions to ask if law enforcement officers stop you can help. Try to remain calm. Panicking may make you appear suspicious, and it can prevent you from thinking clearly.
Do not run or try to physically resist. If you do, you could be detained and arrested. Instead, be respectful so that the officers are more inclined to answer questions for you.
Six questions that you should ask when stopped by police officers are:
1. Am I Being Detained?
Always ask the officer if you are being detained. If you are not being detained, ask the officer if you are free to leave. When the officer confirms that you are free to leave, walk away.
Do not give in to taunts by the police to try to keep you there to answer questions. Police officers may want to keep you there to gather additional information that would give them a reason to detain you. If the officer says that you are not being detained and are free to go, then leave without doing anything to escalate the situation.
2. How Long Will You Detain Me?
The officer may or may not answer this question, but you should ask and remember the answer. Police officers are not supposed to detain a person for an unreasonable period. Unfortunately, it happens.
Do not argue with the police officer. Remember the officer’s remark so that you can tell an attorney if law enforcement officers unreasonably detain you.
3. Why Are You Detaining Me?
The police officer may detain you because he has a reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime or are involved in a crime. Detaining a person gives officers time to gather evidence and information to support probable cause for an arrest.
While you are being detained, exercise your right to remain silent. Trying to explain your way out of being arrested generally never works in a person’s favor.
Rather, when a person talks, it generally benefits the police officers and state prosecutors.
The person usually gives the police officers details that they can use to make the arrest. In some cases, you could give the officers information that could make it more difficult to defend yourself against criminal charges.
Again, simply make a mental note about why you’re being detained. Relay that information to your attorney if and when you are ultimately placed under arrest.
4. Do You Have a Search Warrant?
The Fourth Amendment provides that you can’t be subject to an unreasonable search or seizure. However, those rights aren’t without limitation. In Ohio, a police officer can pat you down during a stop to ensure that you do not have a dangerous weapon. This is a preliminary search based on exigent circumstance – or one that’s intended to prevent immediate harm.
Absent exigent circumstances, a complete search of your person, vehicle, or home requires a search warrant. You are within your rights to ask if the officers have a search warrant.
If the officers do not have a search warrant, refuse to consent to the search. A police officer may proceed with a search without a warrant. Do not resist because that could result in additional criminal charges.
Instead, try to remember as much about the incident as possible so that you can tell your criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer can file a motion with the court to suppress any evidence gathered during an illegal search.
5. What Are the Charges?
If the police officer has an arrest warrant, the basis for your arrest will be detailed there. However, not all arrests have to be made with a warrant in-hand. An officer can make an arrest if they personally witness a crime or have probable cause to believe that you’ve broken the law.
If you are arrested, ask the police officer to tell you the charges. You have a right to know why you are being taken into custody. After asking about the underlying reason for your arrest, stop talking to the police. Do not say anything else without an attorney present. You could end up doing more harm than good by continuing to have a conversation with the arresting officer.
6. Can I Speak to an Attorney?
You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have a lawyer present during all police questioning. If a police officer answers your question with another question, make it a statement. Firmly state that you are invoking your right to talk to a lawyer, and you want a criminal defense lawyer.
All criminal charges are serious. Regardless of whether you face assault charges, DUI, sex crimes, murder, or other criminal charges, you need a criminal defense lawyer to help you defend yourself against these charges.
Your lawyer examines all aspects of your case, including the circumstances of your arrest. If the police officers violated your legal rights, that might help with your defense. Your lawyer understands the charges against you and the various defenses that might help you beat the charges.
If the evidence against you is overwhelming, your lawyer can also help you evaluate the best strategy to avoid the worst-case scenario for a criminal conviction. A prosecutor may be more willing to negotiate a better plea bargain with a lawyer than with the person accused of the crime. Having all information before you decide how to proceed is in your best interest.