Talking to the police will not help you

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:

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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.

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Jennifer Livingston does not know what bullying is

It’s that time again. Another video has gone viral on Facebook and other social media and, as usual, people are hyper-supportive of something that is completely stupid. First, here is the video:

For those too lazy to watch the video, news anchor Jennifer Livingston received an email from some random guy critiquing her for being overweight. She responded to him on air, reading the email as follows:

Hi Jennifer, It’s unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years. Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular.

Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Let’s get the facts out there right away:

  • Someone sent this news anchor a private email.
  • At no point in the email was Livingston harassed, nor were any factually incorrect statements made.
  • Livingston admits that the reason the letter became public was that her husband posted it for all to see on his Facebook page.
  • In addition to Livingston’s husband being the one who initially made this all public, Livingston herself went on television and spoke about the letter for about 4 minutes.

I have a serious problem with what’s going on here. Livingston is claiming that she has been bullied by some anonymous person on the Internet because he encouraged her to lose weight. That isn’t bullying. The man does not seem to have sent Livingston email after email. He was not insulting in his critique but, instead, factual. (Whether or not he was in good taste is a separate question.) He did not set out to mock her for some inherent trait like skin color. All he did was point out that she has been overweight for a number of years now, something which is objectively unhealthy. Livingston chooses to live an unhealthy lifestyle. Criticizing her for that is no different from criticizing her for the political affiliation she chooses or the religious beliefs she chooses to have.

I have other problems with what Livingston has said – she seems to say that the man has no right to criticize her because he doesn’t personally know her; she compares her weight problem to sexual orientation and skin color; she says that we should teach our children to be kind rather than think critically – but I’m going to largely skip that stuff. What really disturbs me is the continuation of this fat acceptance movement. It’s terrible. Being fat is not always a choice – many people are burdened with extra weight because their parents gave them a terrible diet, others have disabilities, some have diseases – but living an unhealthy lifestyle usually is a choice. (This is the point where someone inevitably ignores my intentional use of the word “usually” and points out specific examples where a person’s hands are tied in terms of diet and exercise.) The more and more we pretend like people are helpless to get themselves in shape, the more and more people will embrace bullshit excuses for staying unhealthy.

I don’t necessarily support sending off polite emails to overweight news anchors in an effort to curb obesity. Part of the reason is that I don’t know as there is enough time in the day, at least in America. But the primary reason is that I don’t think someone automatically needs to be a role model by virtue of being in the public eye. Perhaps if Livingston is active in her community and/or otherwise tries to be a role model, then her weight is a fair issue and I think she should address it to the best of her abilities. But I’m not convinced that she has to act like a role model just because she stands in front of a TV crew every day.