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OPINION: Interacting with the police: Know your rights

KentWired illustration by Lucas Fratianne

With Halloween behind us and St. Patrick’s Day coming up, it is crucial to know your rights in the event of an encounter with law enforcement. 

When confronted by a police officer, most of us are immediately flooded with anxiety and fear and are unsure how to act, which can lead to outcomes far less than ideal.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. 

If you are stopped by police, whether you are driving or on foot, cooperation is your friend.

That being said, not all demands of law enforcement must be met. For instance, if you are asked to present identification, you do not necessarily need to, per section 2921.29, unless the law enforcement officer “reasonably suspects either of the following: the person is committing, has committed or is about to commit a criminal offense, [or] the person witnessed any of the following: an offense of violence that would constitute a felony under the laws of this state …” 

If you are not doing anything illegal and a law enforcement officer does not have reasonable suspicion they can explain to you, you are under zero obligation to provide any identifying information to the officer.

Ohio legislation states “nothing in this section requires a person to answer any questions beyond that person’s name, address, or date of birth. Nothing in this section authorizes a law enforcement officer to arrest a person for not providing any information beyond that …”

This is a college town that likes to party, as do many other college towns, and if you participate in underage drinking, you obviously must understand the risk involved with violating the law.

However, that does not mean that you do not also have rights. Per the same section of Ohio legislation, “It is not a violation of this section to refuse to answer a question that would reveal a person’s age … if age is an element of the crime that the person is suspected of committing.” 

You absolutely do not waive your rights once you participate in underage drinking, and this is a crucial piece of information to have under your belt as a college student in the event of an encounter with the police. In many cases, officers may attempt to coerce you into either slipping up or admitting guilt — thus proving grounds for either citation or arrest. 

Further, it is in your best interest to not possess a fake ID or any form of false identification.

In the state of Ohio, having a fake ID is considered a third-degree misdemeanor.

It’s important to note for college students that do carry fake IDs in order to get into bars or to purchase alcohol, while it may seem like common sense, do not present a fake ID to police officers if you are asked to provide identification.

Provide your legal state-issued identification regardless of whether you are breaking the law by drinking underage or not. If you provide a false identification in this instance, it will land you in far more trouble than an underage drinking ticket. 

Being educated on your rights as an American citizen is one of the most important tools you can have in your repertoire, as it can come in handy in your day-to-day life. I urge you to be a well-rounded citizen and not let officers of the law pressure you into any sort of confession if you are not detained. 

Do not let the police overstep or abuse their power. Protect yourself by educating yourself.

Jackson Small is an opinion writer. Contact him at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Jackson Small, Opinion Writer
Jackson is a sophomore majoring in Political Science with a minor in Environmental Studies. This is his first year writing with Kent Wired, where he is an opinion writer predominantly regarding current events and politics. Contact him at [email protected]

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    Skylar WrisleyDec 12, 2023 at 4:36 pm

    Sorry, the article says “you are under zero obligation to provide identifying information” which is then followed by a citation that you ARE required to give your name, address, and date of birth if asked (nothing beyond that though).