I was recently having a discussion with someone about the 5th Amendment and I thought I would throw an old post up here. This may be the third time I’ve posted it, but the central point is a good one: Speaking with the police always has the potential of getting you in trouble. It doesn’t matter if you’re innocent, guilty, or even sometimes the victim. (Bio just ran an interesting piece about battered women and their spouses, including John and Lorena Bobbitt; John, despite being the primary victim, was placed on trial with scant evidence against him.) The police provide a valuable service, but it is important to know one’s rights when interacting with them. Remember, except in particular trial and trial-related circumstances, you never have to speak with someone from the government. Approached by them in your home? On the street? In your car? After being arrested? Invoke your right to silence. Always. Read this post for more information:
I’ve posted this before, but I think it’s worth repeating. I’ve actually read a few local stories where the police had limited leads, thought maybe they had the right suspect, but then someone threw magic fairy dust all over the place and the person just confessed. That’s all sunshine and flowers for those of us who abide by the law, but I hate the reason guilty people do it: police trick them into believing it is in their best interest to do so. That is rarely, if ever, the case. The police are not looking to help out those they suspect of crimes. That isn’t their job. And don’t think to yourself, ‘Oh, I’m innocent. Where’s the harm?’ You can still get screwed.
Unless your reason is that you need help, it isn’t worth the risk to talk to the police. If they come to you for whatever reason, turn them away (unless a loved one is injured or some similar incident, obviously). Don’t fill out or sign any affidavits, don’t tell them where you’ve been or where you’re going, and if you can avoid doing so, don’t even tell them who you are. (For my fellow Mainers, you have to give them your name and address during any traffic or terry stop, and if you’re trespassing, you have to tell them why you’re there. Only give out minimal information. The laws for every state can be found here.) UPDATE: Upon further investigation, it appears that Maine does not have any Stop and Identify statutes that require citizens to tell the police anything during a Terry Stop or casual conversation. Twenty-four states do, including nearby New Hampshire. I recommend independent research by those interested in the specifics of all this.
But for most of us, the situation isn’t going to be so significant as to require a lot of legal forethought like what’s in James Duane’s video above. Instead, most people are going to interact with police officers during traffic stops. There’s a way to handle those, too.
(Keep annotations on.)
There’s a longer version to that video where the kids actually had pot in their car, so they had good reason to be assertive in order to avoid a search. This may not be the best way for everyone to handle being pulled over. Sometimes there isn’t anything to hide, so asserting one’s rights is a good way to end up paying a $200 fine (like those kids) because the cop prefers his citizens friendly. But then there are times when it only seems like there isn’t anything to hide. Fast forward to the 22 minute point of this next video.
That video contains the entire clip with the first group of kids, but it’s the second kid who matters for this point. He may well have been innocent, but the fact that he allowed the police unnecessary access to his property got him in trouble. Keep watching for when he handles the situation correctly, giving minimal information. The police don’t need to know what they claim they should know.
Don’t talk to the cops.