Know your rights during police encounters

Know your rights during police encounters

Being stopped by the police can be an intimidating, nerve-wracking experience, but it doesn’t have to be. You have rights under the Ohio and United States Constitutions that protect you from police action or misconduct in many situations, such as traffic stops, warrantless searches, and police questioning without the advice of an attorney like Rebecca M. Black. Below are some common questions and general information about your constitutional rights that will help guide you through encounters with the police.


The police came up to me on the street, and they started asking me questions. Do I have to answer their questions or let them search me?

In Ohio, you must truthfully tell police your name, date of birth, and address if asked. It is a crime in Ohio to refuse to give them this information or give false identification information. Always ask if you are free to leave—you have the right to know what they are arresting you for if they tell you are not and you are under arrest. You do not have to answer any other police questions, but to do so you must assert your right to remain silent by clearly, and in no uncertain terms, saying aloud that “I am invoking my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.”

The police must stop questioning you if you ask clearly and in no uncertain terms to see an attorney before answering any other questions. Statements like “I think I need an attorney” or “Do I need an attorney present?” are not enough to trigger the end of all questioning. You MUST state that you want a lawyer, then call Attorney Rebecca M. Black!

As to a search of your body and clothing, you should know the police can conduct a limited search of your outer clothing without much evidence against you. This is called a “pat down” search, a “Terry search,” or a “frisk.” The police can pat down your clothing for weapons if they have reason to suspect you are carrying a weapon, whether that reason be from an anonymous tipster or their observations of activity that indicates drug possession, use, or trafficking. The pat down search does not allow them to look in your pockets without your consent or without a warrant (either a search warrant or a warrant to arrest you). You should state clearly and repeatedly that you do not consent to any search. You NEVER have to give permission to the police to search you. If they do decide to search you, however, you should not resist or try to hide or discard contraband, etc.

The police showed up at my home and asked if they could come inside and talk to me. Do I have to let the police into my home?

You do not have to let the police into your home unless they have a search warrant for your home or an arrest warrant for you that specifically allows them to arrest you in your home. If the police say they have a search warrant, ask to see it and retain a copy of it for your records. If they do have a search warrant, you should cooperate as much as possible and avoid interfering or obstructing the police in carrying out that warrant. Be aware that you can be arrested for doing so.

Even without your permission, however, police can enter your home if they believe they hear sounds or have other indications that a crime is currently in progress or that someone in the home is destroying evidence by, for instance, flushing drugs down a toilet.

I was arrested and taken to the police station. What are my rights?

Once you are arrested, you have the right to remain silent. However, you must clearly and repeatedly invoke your right to remain silent by saying aloud that “I am invoking my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.”

You also have the right to see an attorney of your choice or have a free attorney appointed to you if you cannot afford one. You must verbally request, in no uncertain terms, to see an attorney to trigger the end of all police questioning. Phrases like “Should I get an attorney?” or “I think I should talk to an attorney” are not enough to invoke your Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Never answer any police questions (other than the basic identification questions listed above) without the advice and presence of an experienced attorney such as Rebecca M. Black. Your explanations or excuses are more likely to make your situation and the potential outcomes worse than to help you avoid prosecution – even if it is just “small talk.” This is the kind of information that should only be discussed with Criminal Defense Attorney Rebecca M. Black, who can determine the best way to use those facts and statements to defend you in court.

You are entitled to make a free call to an attorney such as Rebecca M. Black or to family when you are finished with the booking process at the jail. Never EVER talk about the facts of the case on phones in the jail or at a police station, no matter how much your loved ones press you for information. Hang up immediately if they persist or start talking about the facts of your case. Your conversations on any jail or police station phones are recorded and listened to by the prosecutor’s office. Only what you say to your attorney in a private setting is considered confidential and privileged.


The police pulled me over and said they suspected I was driving drunk or committing OVI/DUI/DWI. When and how should I submit to a blood alcohol test or field sobriety tests?

The decision of whether to blow into the breathalyzer, either at the police station or on the side of the road, depends on how much you have had to drink and your history of drunk-driving convictions. There is no easy way to give advice on the issue without case-specific information, so you are best served by contacting Criminal Defense Attorney Rebecca M. Black as soon as possible for a confidential consultation.

Generally speaking, you should probably consent to a breathalyzer test if you think you may be relatively close to the legal limit of a .08 BAC (blood alcohol content), which is about two servings of alcohol. There are penalties for a “low-test” BAC, stiffer penalties for a “high-test” blow (over a .17 BAC), and more penalties still for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer or other form of BAC test. Drivers with a CDL license can even lose their CDL under certain circumstances related to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

For instance, refusing to blow results in an automatic, immediate suspension of your driver’s license and additional penalties, especially if you have been convicted of an OVI/DUI/DWI/drunk driving in the past, so the decision to refuse should not be made lightly. However, at least the administrative driver’s license suspension for refusing to blow can be challenged within seven days of your refusal. Therefore, it is very important that you contact Akron Attorney Rebecca M. Black as soon after your arrest as possible so she can file the appropriate motions to protect you.

Some general advice:

  1. Do not lie to or argue with police officers. You are better off telling police you are invoking your Fifth Amendment right to silence or your Sixth Amendment right to see an attorney.
  1. Do not run away from police officers, even if they say you are not under arrest or are free to leave. Don’t touch any police officers or resist arrest, even if you are innocent. Separate criminal charges can arise from doing so.
  1. Always keep your hands visible and away from your pockets during any encounter with the police. Avoid anything that could seem like a “furtive movement” or reaching for a weapon.
  1. As soon as possible, write down everything you can remember about your encounter with the police. Write down specific details such as the order of events, what things happened when, such as when they started questioning you, when they placed you under arrest, and when they read you your Miranda Take note of officer names, badge numbers, and patrol car numbers. Get the names and phone numbers of any potential witnesses if you can.
  1. Take pictures of any injuries that might have occurred during your encounter with the police as soon as possible (Attorney Rebecca M. Black can take a camera to the jail if you are not released on bond). Seek medical attention if you feel it even “might” be a good idea.
  1. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney such as Rebecca M. Black as soon as possible to best protect your rights and your freedom in any situation involving the police.