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Criminal Defense

3 Tips to Effectively Handle Interactions with Law Enforcement in Ohio

With the decline of COVID-19 cases in Ohio, the approaching months are expected to feature a surge of public gatherings, events, and travel. Naturally, an increased amount of law enforcement interactions may also result as society begins to reengage with social activities during what could be a historic summer. Whether you are in your vehicle, your home, or in public, consider these tips and pieces of information if you happen to encounter the police.

1. Remain Calm. If you become agitated or combative, then the chances of an officer perceiving you as a threat will likely increase. In that instance, it would be reasonable to expect the officer to respond accordingly to maintain control of the situation. By remaining calm, you can minimize the length of the encounter, avoid compromising your safety, and decrease the likelihood of acquiring additional, criminal charges. If you are in your vehicle, always keep your hands in plain view and advise passengers to do the same. Never make any fast physical movements in front of an officer and do request permission if you need to adjust your body or hands.

2. Provide Respect and Professionalism. Choosing to argue with an officer, or resist orders, will likely worsen the immediate and long-term results of the encounter. It is important to know that your demeanor and conduct during the interaction may likely be documented and considered by a prosecutor or judge in the future. Simply follow an officer’s instructions, and at a later time, you may consult with your lawyer to determine if any of your rights were violated during the encounter.

3. Remember Your Rights.

You have the right to remain silent. You may invoke this right by clearly stating, “I respectfully refuse to answer any questions,” or, “I assert my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.” Even if it feels awkward, there is usually little benefit, if any, to engage in small talk or unnecessary conversation during an official interaction with law enforcement. By remaining silent, you are not indicating you are “guilty” but rather that you know your rights.

**During a traffic stop, your right to remain silent does not override your duty to comply with an officer’s orders to inspect your driver’s license, registration, and automobile insurance.**

**If you are stopped by an officer in public for questioning, you are required to provide your name, address, and date of birth, upon request.**

You have the right to consult with an attorney, especially before providing any statements or information. You may invoke this right by clearly stating, “I would like to talk to my lawyer,” or, “I assert my Sixth Amendment right to an attorney.”

You do not have the right to be dishonest with the police, as doing so may result in criminal charges. However, you do have the right to refrain from making any statements and remaining silent.

You have the right to refuse consent for an officer to search your property (including your electronic devices), person, home, and vehicle. Ultimately, an officer may still be able to obtain justification to conduct a search by acquiring a warrant, or, by identifying reasons which could eliminate the need for a warrant. Still, a vast majority of searches occur due to an individual unnecessarily waiving his or her right to refuse by voluntarily providing consent.

In Ohio, you have the right to record your encounter. However, you may not interfere with an officer or investigation when doing so. You also have the right to document your encounter and ask for an officer’s name and badge number. As with the exercise of any right, it is best to do so with politeness to the officer.

Most recognize the need for effective and legal law enforcement, but it is also critical to understand your individual rights and responsibilities. Attorney Brad Wolfe is available 24/7 in Cleveland, Ohio to address your questions and discuss your interaction with law enforcement at (216) 815-6000.

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