If you find yourself in a situation where Ohio law enforcement officers attempt to ask you questions, you should know that you have no legal obligation to answer their questions unless and until the point when you have an attorney at your side.
The right to respectfully refuse to answer an officer’s questions represents only one of your following four Miranda rights that you should keep in mind at all times:
- The right to remain silent
- That the prosecutor could use anything you say in court
- The right to an attorney
- The right to a court-appointed attorney if you cannot afford to hire one yourself
Bear in mind, however, that per Miranda v. Arizona, the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case that established Miranda rights, officers need advise you of these rights only at the point where they arrest you. Prior to that, any information you give to officers represents voluntary information that they can, and often will, later use against you.
While your Miranda rights apply only in post-arrest situations, you have and can assert your Constitutional rights from which they flow at any time, anywhere. These three rights consist of the following:
- The Fourth Amendment: your right to be free of unreasonable governmental searches and seizures
- The Fifth Amendment: your right against self-incrimination
- The Sixth Amendment: your right to assistance of counsel in any criminal prosecution against you
The bottom line is that you should never speak with law enforcement officers informally without an attorney present. You should also avoid speaking to a family member or friend within earshot of law enforcement, as an officer may legally eavesdrop on your conversation. In either of these situations, your words may well come back to haunt you later.