Suppose you are walking down a street when a police officer confronts you and says: “Stop. I need to ask you some questions.”
A person is “stopped,” or “detained,” when an officer uses enough force, or a show of authority, to make a reasonable person feel he or she is not free to leave. If, in addition to calling out for you to stop and using his or her authority to make you stop, the officer also pulls out a weapon or uses a threatening tone of voice, it would be even clearer that you have been “stopped.” If the officer interferes with your liberty to move about, he or she should first have a reasonable suspicion that you have been involved in a crime. The officer would need to support this suspicion later (should the matter should wind up in court) by referring to specific facts that prompted the suspicion.
The police do not have to tell you that you are a suspect or that they intend to arrest you, but if they use force or a show of authority to keep you from leaving, they probably consider you a suspect, even if you were the person who called the police. If they read or recite your Miranda rights, they suspect you have committed a crime.
You have the right, if you are stopped, to refuse to answer any questions for any reason or no reason. You can invoke your right to silence by saying, “I refuse to answer any questions” or “I want to speak to a lawyer” or “I wish to remain silent.” If you do not clearly invoke your right to silence with such a statement, you may subject yourself to continued questioning by police.
There is one exception to your right to silence: According to Ohio law since April 2006, if you are in a public place and under certain circumstances, you must give your name, address and date of birth to an officer. If you fail to provide this information under such circumstances, you will be committing a fourth-degree misdemeanor and may be arrested.
Further, anything you say can be used as evidence against you. Sometimes people think that what they are saying won’t incriminate them, but it can provide a link in a chain of information that could incriminate them.
Even if you believe the officer has no grounds to stop and question you, do not argue with or resist the police. Arguing or resisting will not help you, and may make it more likely that the police will arrest you and bring criminal charges against you. It may also give them grounds to bring even more criminal charges against you, which can make it harder for you to get out of jail on bail if you are charged. Once officers no longer have grounds to detain you, they should say you are free to go before asking to search you or your car.