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Your Right to an Attorney (and Why You Should Use It)

Your Right to an Attorney (and Why You Should Use It)
May 3, 2019 Shannon Dawes
Divorce and dissolution under Ohio law.

“You Have the Right to an Attorney.”

Those who are fans of police shows – or those who have been arrested – may know this line. It is one of the Miranda warnings that police are required to inform you of before interrogating you in connection with a crime. This warning or advisory is informative: you do have the right to speak with an attorney before the police are able to interrogate you, and that attorney can be present with you when you answer questions if you would like. This is an important right that some Ohio criminal defendants overlook – almost always to their own detriment.

How Do I Invoke this Right?

There are no “magic words” or specific phrases you need to use in order to tell police you won’t answer any more questions without an attorney present. All that is required is that you make some statement or other overture in which you clearly and unambiguously indicate you want to speak with an attorney. Saying, “I want an attorney,” will be sufficient; however, saying, “I’m not sure if I need an attorney” is not clear and not unambiguous, and police may continue to ask questions.

What Happens After I Invoke My Right to Counsel?

Once police know that you do not want to speak with them without having an attorney present, all police questioning must stop. Law enforcement cannot continue to ask you questions about their investigation or the charges you may be facing (they may, however, ask you for basic information they may need to process you into jail, such as your name, date of birth, and address). If police continue to ask you questions about their case after you have told them you want an attorney, then any information that is provided may later be suppressed (meaning it may not be able to be used against you in any criminal case that may be filed against you).

Because you have the right to have an attorney present with you if you choose to answer questions, you cannot be penalized or face additional repercussions for choosing to have an attorney with you before answering the police’s questions.

Be Careful About Waiving Your Right to Counsel 

Even if you tell the police you do not want to make a statement to the police until you’ve spoken with an attorney, you may still “give up” or “waive” this right at any time. One way you can do this is (obviously) to tell the police you are ready to talk to them and you no longer want or need to speak with an attorney. You may also give up your right to speak with an attorney before being questioned if you continue to talk with police about your case, the charges they arrested you on, or other case-specific topics. In other words, you cannot invoke your right to counsel, then tell police, “I couldn’t have done these crimes because I was at so-and-so’s house” without the police being able to ask you follow-up questions.

So when you say you want to speak to a lawyer first before talking with police, do just that: don’t say anything more about the investigation or charges without your attorney present.

Dawes Legal, LLC, Your Columbus Criminal Defense Law Firm, is Only a Call Away

Dawes Legal, LLC will be by your side during every step of your criminal case: from the interrogation until verdict and beyond. We fight to ensure our clients’ rights are protected and honored throughout the criminal justice process. If you have been arrested and/or charged with a crime in Ohio, we want to talk to you. Call our office at (614) 733-9999 today.