Police interview do I have to answer their questions?

Recently on our forum a user asked, “The police have asked for me to come down to the police station and answer a few questions. I know I didn’t do anything wrong, but I also know that innocent people do get arrested and charged with crimes they did not commit. How do I protect myself? What should I do?” 

If you have been asked to come to the police station you have every right to be concerned. In fact, there are several steps you should take before talking to them. Remember, you have rights and understanding those rights is important.

Information about your rights when questioned by police

Individuals who have been detained and are going to be interrogated by the police must be mirandized. Specifically, they must be notified of the following: they have the right to remain silent, what they say can be used in court against them, they have the right to consult with a lawyer, they have a right to have a lawyer present during questioning, and if they cannot afford a lawyer one will be provided to them.

What may not be so clear to individuals, however, is the rights they have if they have not been taken into police custody or placed under interrogation or they have not been arrested for a crime.

If you have not been arrested but you have been asked to answer questions or voluntarily come in to the police station and give a statement, the police may not tell you that you do not have to answer the officer’s questions. Let’s take a look at all the steps you can take to protect yourself.

Steps to protect yourself when questioned by police

  1. Provide the minimum amount of information necessary under the law.

Under certain state laws, you may be required to provide basic information to the police if questioned. For example, in Ohio, under specific conditions, you are required to provide your name, address and date of birth to an officer if asked. Refusing to provide this information could result in a criminal charge.

It’s also important to not resist arrest, argue with the police, run away, or try to interfere with the arrest of another person. Doing so can also result in an arrest or additional charges being filed against you. 

If you have provided the minimum information necessary, go to step 2.

  1. Do not talk to the police without a lawyer present.

If you have been asked to come down and voluntarily speak with a police officer the police do not have to mirandize you or warn you that anything you say could be used against you. In fact, because you are not in custody and this is not an official interrogation they don’t have to tell you anything. That does not mean, however, that what you say cannot be used against you.

If the police have asked for you to come and make a statement, it’s important to have a defense lawyer present. If they are trying to talk to you and you do not have a lawyer, refusing to answer their questions is fine. In fact, it’s as simple as saying, “I will not speak to you without my lawyer present.”

Many people simply go and talk to the police thinking that they are safe because they did not do anything wrong. Unfortunately, even if you are careful about what you say the police may misunderstand or misconstrue something you have said.

  1. Understand your rights if you have been arrested.

Not talking to the police does not mean you will not be arrested. If you are arrested it’s also important to understand your rights.

You have the right to make a call to notify a responsible party that you have been arrested. You have the right to refuse chemical and physical tests, you have the right to have your lawyer present during any identification procedure, you have the right to have a reasonable bail set to secure your release (not available for all charges), and you have the right to have your arraignment held in a reasonable time period after your arrest.

Bottom line:

If the police want to question you, you have rights.

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