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Don't talk to the police
June 25, 2008 7:47 PM   Subscribe

Most Americans are aware of their Miranda rights, the most important of which may be the right to remain silent. Apparently, many people don't take advantage of that right. Professor James Duane makes some compelling arguments why you should, and Officer George Bruch agrees. Of course, if you choose to ignore their advice and have something to hide, you will be going up against pros in interrogation. Good luck.
posted by procrastination (56 comments total) 122 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yes. This is an incredibly important lesson more people need to learn, for all our sake.
posted by phrontist at 8:05 PM on June 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


He's a professor at the Bush Administration's Favorite Law School (Regent University). I feel like he's talking directly to all his students currently under federal law enforcement scrutiny.
posted by mrnutty at 8:07 PM on June 25, 2008


(not that I disagree with him on this subject)
posted by mrnutty at 8:10 PM on June 25, 2008


Going into any situation where the police are involved, you have to realized they just showed up with as much of a description as the dispatcher could get from a panicking person. They are not omnipotent. Still, in the vast majority of situations, being honest with the police is the right option.

Know your rights! Blindly submitting because an authority figure told you to is highly un-American.
posted by Boating Enthusiast at 8:17 PM on June 25, 2008


I like singing this song to my baby daughter Miranda.
posted by EarBucket at 8:25 PM on June 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Still, in the vast majority of situations, being honest with the police is the right option.

This assumes that most of the time the police are acting in the best interest of the citizenry. I've almost never found that to be the case, and I'm a lily white kid from the the suburbs. If you really do have useful information to give to the police, and for some reason believe they'll be improving the world with your help, do it through a lawyer.
posted by phrontist at 8:26 PM on June 25, 2008 [15 favorites]


Don't give up your freedoms! Keep it zipped around the fuzz, the man, the pigs, the heat. You're just making their jobs easier by blabbing, whereas if you know your rights... you're going to piss them off.
posted by porn in the woods at 8:27 PM on June 25, 2008


Also, you should use all your rights on principle. If only the guilty use their rights, it'll only be easier to sweep them away.
posted by phrontist at 8:30 PM on June 25, 2008 [25 favorites]


Going into any situation where the police are involved, you have to realized they just showed up with as much of a description as the dispatcher could get from a panicking person.

Yes, that. Plus, whatever bias any human carries into the world...
posted by R. Mutt at 8:31 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


This ACLU produced video is good for the specific case of road stops.
posted by phrontist at 8:33 PM on June 25, 2008 [10 favorites]


These talks are pretty great.

It's funny, how Duane pretends to frame it as a debate, realizing that Bruch will confirm everything that he says. Oddly classy of Bruch to save his retort for the last sentence of his talk.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:38 PM on June 25, 2008


Bruch says he doesn't "try to send innocent people to jail," roll truck roll, but he's one cop. Every cop I've personally known has generally been less articulate and less interested in fairness than Mr. Bruch. After all—"They've all done somethin' worth goin' to jail for." The "they" is malleable. Young black males are a favorite. Young males in general.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:46 PM on June 25, 2008


Michael Seidman, my Con Law professor at Georgetown from the past year, gave us a great speech about the importance of the fifth amendment on principle even if the client is guilty as hell and everybody in the room knows it, hell - even if he's already confessed.

A client if his from his years with the public defender's office had used the classic defense of saying that he was at home watching t.v. with his girlfriend at the time.

Now, prosecutors know that alibi from a mile away, Seidman told us, and know immediately how to retort to it.

"You say you were watching t.v. with your girlfriend at 3:30 p.m. on August 28th. What were you doing at 5:30 pm. on August 27th?"

Now Seidman knew this was coming, and of course, when interviewing his client previously, he couldn't call the alibi into question, because he couldn't let himself end up in a situation where he'd advise the client to perjure himself, so he had to take the client at his word.

So while Seidman bit his lip, expecting his client to sputter and come up with an answer for the impossible question, the client surprised him by uttering the immortal words:

"Fuck this shit."

That, Michael Seidman claimed, was the essence of the Fifth Amendment. The state may take your body, may take your freedom or your money, may even take your life, but they may not take your soul, and as much as they may question you, that part of you is off limits.

God Bless America, God Bless the Bill of Rights, and Fuck this Shit.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:04 PM on June 25, 2008 [87 favorites]


Burch's presentation was actually far more informative.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:06 PM on June 25, 2008


It's funny that even though he clarifies in his talk it's not "Miranda Rights", you still called it that.

Snark aside, this is a great video (saw it on reddit last week) that everyone should watch.
posted by knave at 9:39 PM on June 25, 2008


Navelgazer: where was the prosecutor in your anecdote going with asking about the previous day? Why is that a solid retort?
posted by mindsound at 10:00 PM on June 25, 2008


mindsound: maybe I should have clarified that. The idea is that the trial is so long after the fact that when the prosecutor asks about the certainty of what the defendant was doing the previous day, and their answer is hesitant, and not so clearly rehearsed, and everything else that we expect about hearing the alibi for the time in question, it makes the jury wonder why the defendant is so sure about this one particular day and time, and not about other particular days and times.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:06 PM on June 25, 2008


I often wished I was able to go back in time, grab my clients by the lapels, and tell them, "Shut the fuck up! Stop talking! No one is asking you about your coke problem from the 1980s! Shut up!"
posted by 1adam12 at 10:08 PM on June 25, 2008 [17 favorites]


Hmm. Reading the stuff about the Reid technique, I realize it was applied to me, once. It was a horrible experience, and, if I recall correctly, I was visibly shaking, despite the fact that I hadn't done what I was accused of doing. It made me feel somehow guilty in my soul, like I would have done what I'd been accused of if given the change and that, therefore, I might as well admit to having done it, even thought I hadn't.

What the interviewer didn't know is that I was an ex-fundamentalist still coming to terms with being gay. So, yeah, I'm sure I showed a lot of signs of feeling guilty, which only re-enforced the interviewer's suspicion

Thank God (and, yeah I feel like using the capital-G at this moment), I kept saying to myself, "he's just doing his job. He really thinks I'm a suspect, so of course he's going to act this way."
posted by treepour at 10:34 PM on June 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


Nice videos, thanks.
posted by tkolar at 10:35 PM on June 25, 2008


Are people required to get out of their car when ordered by police, while not under arrest?
posted by Brian B. at 11:01 PM on June 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


The more people keep posting video content here, the more I curse the fact that I'm half-way around the world from my home sitting in an Army tent connecting to MeFi through military networks. All the video content is shut off, and I'm left missing a crucial piece of the conversation.

My Father, who is a lawyer, once helped me prep for a deposition in a civil case about an "internet cafe" where I was a witness for several illegal things that regularly transpired there. He told me to always be sure that I answer the question as asked and don't embellish. Because of that, when prompted with the question, "Were you at [the net cafe] or at [a nearby ice cream shop] at the time?" I quickly answered, "Yes." I don't think the lawyers taking the deposition liked that one so much.
posted by mystyk at 11:12 PM on June 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


Thank God we're in the United States because most interviews in Italy, Spain and so forth start out physically. (35 seconds into the Bruch video)

Can anyone comment on this? I do know that police accountability is a serious problem in Italy -- but I have no idea how widespread interrogation violence is over here. I mean, most interviews? Good Lord. Plenty of European countries do have their own version of the Miranda warning, although a universal right to silence is conspicuously absent as far as the EU is concerned, which is disheartening.

From what I've gathered1, police brutality is fairly common in the Balkans, where officers are skilled in the art of inflicting-pain-without-leaving-any-evidence-of-aforementioned-pain... but is this true for western Europe?

1 When it comes to how I know this, I most definitely plead the fifth.
posted by Ljubljana at 11:23 PM on June 25, 2008


OK, serious question for any lawyers following the thread. When is it OK to talk to the police? If my next door neighbor got killed, and the police wanted to know whether or not he "had any enemies" or whether I saw or heard anything, wouldn't I want to cooperate? Or should I worry, as the videos suggest, that even if I tell the truth in my living room while sharing coffee with the detectives, that I might say something that could be used to prosecute me? In which case, should I tell them "Come back tomorrow morning when my lawyer's here. I'll have a fresh pot of coffee waiting, oh, and some pie"?
posted by Nquire at 11:25 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


God Bless America, God Bless the Bill of Rights, and Fuck this Shit.

Great story. I really makes me so happy to see the legitimate and necessary efforts of law enforcement thwarted and another guilty as hell miscreant unleashed back into society.

And liberals wonder why conservatives want to hold onto their weapons.....

God Bless the Bill of Rights indeed.
posted by three blind mice at 11:32 PM on June 25, 2008


When is it OK to talk to the police?

When you're gulity.

"When I talk to the police I get nervous."
"Yes. You know who doesn't?"
"Who?"
"Thieves."
posted by three blind mice at 11:35 PM on June 25, 2008


Are people required to get out of their car when ordered by police, while not under arrest?

Yes. If they do not then they are obstructing a police officer which is an arrestable offence.
posted by nicwolff at 11:48 PM on June 25, 2008


legitimate and necessary efforts of law enforcement

Talk like that makes me hot.
posted by maxwelton at 12:02 AM on June 26, 2008


As far as I know, you're required to comply with any order of that type that a police officer gives you. I believe there's a specific phrase for it, "being detained". You can ask the officer if you're being detained; if he says no, the next question is, "am I free to leave?". Being detained is not being arrested, but you are required to stop what you're doing and do what the officer asks.... which, of course, doesn't include testifying if you don't wish to. (and, if you've been watching these videos, you shouldn't wish to!)

Another thing to remember is that cops get ground down by the daily drudgery just like everyone else. Many of them are measured on conviction rates. If they can get a conviction, they get rewarded. There's no reward for being right, just for convictions. I imagine that, after doing that same old shit for years, if an accused perp comes even fairly close to the right profile, they're gonna push hard for a conviction, regardless of actual guilt or innocence.

And then, of course, you get the utter sociopaths who ONLY care about personal advancement; if innocent people go to jail, they don't care in the least. I don't think they're very common, but look at that DA in Georgia who was doing his damndest to keep that teenager locked up for having consensual sex with another minor, even after the law had changed so that it wasn't illegal anymore. These people do exist, and they have enormous power when they're in law enforcement.

You can't tell ahead of time if you got one of those, and they appear to be very attracted to the power offered by that kind of job. If you talk to one of those people, you're in truly deep shit.... so, well, just don't say ANYTHING.
posted by Malor at 12:07 AM on June 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


As far as I know, you're required to comply with any order of that type that a police officer gives you.

One serious problem is that it is very unclear to a layman, whatever that blowhard Scalia might think, what constitutes an order and what constitutes a request when it comes to dealing with a police officer on the street. In fact, the police depend on that confusion in order to perform searches that they don't have any right to conduct.

So "Is that an order or a request?" belongs in your lexicon right next to "Am I being detained?" and "Am I free to go?".
posted by Justinian at 12:26 AM on June 26, 2008 [24 favorites]


it makes the jury wonder why the defendant is so sure about this one particular day and time, and not about other particular days and times.
Just a thought ... but maybe, because that's the day and time that he's being tried for his actions on? That would tend to concentrate the mind.

One of the things that irritates me, and I daresay any fair-minded person, most about adversarial law, is that it is conducted not just in utter ignorance of basic psychology, but in denial of it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:52 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


So "Is that an order or a request?" belongs in your lexicon right next to "Am I being detained?" and "Am I free to go?".

The phrase used in the video phrontist links to (which doesn't appear to have been produced by the ACLU), is "I don't consent to any searches."
posted by grouse at 1:52 AM on June 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


Still, in the vast majority of situations, being honest with the police is the right option.

FAIL
posted by telstar at 2:01 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


All fine and dandy, but what is that bullshit about interviews "in Italy and Spain and so forth start out physical, and the police can do pretty much what they want"?

That asshole cop might be an authority as far as police work in Virginia Beach is concerned, but he has no clue about how other civilised countries have their own legal protection for suspects.

Tosser.
posted by jgbustos at 2:58 AM on June 26, 2008


"Yes. This is an incredibly important lesson more people need to learn, for all our sake."

Isn't it just masking the (larger?) problem that the populace and the police have no trust in each other?
posted by Auz at 3:14 AM on June 26, 2008


God Bless America, God Bless the Bill of Rights, and Fuck this Shit.
-------------------

Great story. I really makes me so happy to see the legitimate and necessary efforts of law enforcement thwarted and another guilty as hell miscreant unleashed back into society.
-------------------

Way to miss the point. You know the suspect in Navelgazer's story is guilty because...?

This comment from a previous post sums up my sentiments pretty well. Tell me you "know" the suspect is guilty when a court of law finds sufficient evidence to convict. It's supposed to be one possible end of the evidence-collection journey, not the starting point.
posted by fatehunter at 3:17 AM on June 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


"When I talk to the police I get nervous."
"Yes. You know who doesn't?"
"Who?"
"Thieves."


I know this is a film quote but it doesn't really make any sense, does it? Would stealing an old lady's pension book make me invulnerable to fear? That's an origin story even Stan Lee would baulk at.
posted by biffa at 3:34 AM on June 26, 2008


The idea is that the trial is so long after the fact that when the prosecutor asks about the certainty of what the defendant was doing the previous day, and their answer is hesitant, and not so clearly rehearsed, and everything else that we expect about hearing the alibi for the time in question, it makes the jury wonder why the defendant is so sure about this one particular day and time, and not about other particular days and times.

Lawyerly trickery. "By a curious coincidence I wasn't accused of breaking the law 22 hours beforehand, so I haven't mentally retraced my steps recently. I can do so, but it will take time."
posted by Sparx at 5:10 AM on June 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


Sparx: If you can pull that together on the stand, instead of spluttering, you're a better man than I.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:28 AM on June 26, 2008


Funny, I just got off the phone last night with my brother-in-law who was "detained" with handcuffs on, although not arrested. He was also browbeaten at the station for four hours in an attempt to make him confess to something he didn't do. Why? Because of his hair color. When a witness was brought in and told the police he definitely wasn't the guy, he was finally released -an hour later- after being warned -he's not really sure about what- and they took him back to his house and repeatedly demanded he turn over his computer, threatening to take him back to the station if he didn't give it up. Even though he had been cleared by the victim. Even though a computer didn't figure in the crime he was accused of. Just fishing. At that point he employed the fuck you defense and they went away. He called to vent because his lawyer told him not to even bother trying to start something legal or his life, locally, would become a living hell.

Fuck you and your legitimate and necessary efforts, Three Blind Mice. They're supposed to be the good guys. You're one of those, "He must be guilty if the cops says he is," citizens. God, I hope some of you law and order assholes end up falsely accused sometime. You can rot in your cell with the comfort that it must have been necessary, if questionably legitimate.
posted by umberto at 5:44 AM on June 26, 2008 [34 favorites]


Sparx: If you can pull that together on the stand, instead of spluttering, you're a better man than I.

I don't think his point was that the defendant could/should have been able to do that (the prosecutor was relying on the unlikelihood of that), it was that it's unfair bullying that falsely gives the impression of uncovering something important.
posted by languagehat at 5:51 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Great story. I really makes me so happy to see the legitimate and necessary efforts of law enforcement thwarted and another guilty as hell miscreant unleashed back into society.

three blind mice, I too believe the guy was guilty, but saying "Fuck this shit" didn't set him free. The point was that he was going to jail, but the state couldn't have complete control over him.

Although I might suffer more criminals on the street for a viable fuck-this-shit defense. I think I'd find that a fair trade-off.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:24 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Of course the problem is that from a young age we're all taught that a badge, a tie, a nice suit, a position of authority indicates trustworthiness. If you're lost find a cop. That instinct is very, very difficult to resist even when you know it's there. Cops still have a huge amount of (mostly justified) accrued, generational respect and unfortunately that can be abused.

I personally think all on-duty police work needs to be on tape for accountability. Cameras are small enough nowdays.
posted by Skorgu at 7:17 AM on June 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Skorgu: If only that would ameliorate all of the issues brought up by Duane. It's still a good idea, though.
posted by wierdo at 7:55 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


According to Richard Leo (USF) and Welsh White (University of Pittsburgh),

Empirical data indicates that the police deliver the Miranda warnings in at least three ways. First, the police may deliver the warnings in a neutral manner; second, they may de-emphasize the warnings' significance by delivering them in a manner that is designed to obscure the adversarial relationship between the interrogator and the suspect; and, third, they may deliver the warnings in a way that communicates to the suspect that waiving his rights will result in some immediate or future benefit for him.

So, in at least some instances, you have to be self-possessed and canny enough (in a situation of what is usually extreme stress) to be aware when you are actually being manipulated to elicit a waiver of your rights -- and to object to that manipulation.
posted by blucevalo at 9:16 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


three blind mice, I think you'll find that if you spend more time listening, you'll note that many of those darn libruls on the internets completely agree with you about gun control. I'm one of them.

Defending the 2nd amendment and defending the 5th amendment are really the same argument: your individual rights cannot be given up to allow the executive branch to work more swiftly.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:40 AM on June 26, 2008


That's quite a presentation. I have a question though: The lawyer said that the police can not testify about what you tell them, when asked by the defence, because that is 'hearsay'. Okay. But why is not also 'hearsay' when they testify about what you say, for the prosecution? This confuses me greatly.
posted by Goofyy at 10:17 AM on June 26, 2008


Goofyy: the rules excluding hearsay evidence are riddled with exceptions and exclusions. An admission or statement by a party made against their own interest is one such exception, the reasoning being that a person would not say something detrimental to their own interests unless it was true; as such, the general concern about the unreliability of out of court statements does not exist for party admissions.
posted by shen1138 at 11:31 AM on June 26, 2008


Most Americans are aware of their Miranda rights, the most important of which may be the right to remain silent. Apparently, many people don't take advantage of that right.

Sorry I don't have time to read the links -- this may be in there. One minor point -- by the time you're getting Miranda rights, the most important thing to say is "I want a lawyer." Silence is good too, but once you ask for a lawyer, they have to stop asking any questions until you get one. If you just refuse to answer questions, they can keep trying.
posted by jhc at 1:57 PM on June 26, 2008


three blind mice writes "Great story. I really makes me so happy to see the legitimate and necessary efforts of law enforcement thwarted and another guilty as hell miscreant unleashed back into society.

"And liberals wonder why conservatives want to hold onto their weapons....."


Will the cognitive dissonance making your head explode obviate then need for the cops to arrest you when when the "liberals" pass gun control laws that lead to the cops taking your guns away?

(To forestall the question: I'm a liberal who believes the 2nd Amendment should be as sacrosanct as the 1st or any othe rpaet of the Constitution.)
posted by orthogonality at 1:43 AM on June 27, 2008


I'm a liberal who believes the 2nd Amendment should be as sacrosanct as the 1st or any othe rpaet of the Constitution.)

Why should the Constitution be sacrosanct? And why should all parts be equally sacrosanct? If a part starts being bad law then surely it is wiser to get rid of it?
posted by biffa at 1:48 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why should the Constitution be sacrosanct? And why should all parts be equally sacrosanct? If a part starts being bad law then surely it is wiser to get rid of it?

Bingo. If the Constitution were sacrosanct, you wouldn't have amendments. Talk about cognitive dissonance...
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:06 AM on June 27, 2008


I think what's more than obvious is that a lot of people on both sides regard the Constitution as sacrosanct regarding their personal hot button issue,and as amendable regarding things they don't agree with. Duh.

Not sure it's cognitive dissonance as much as good old flat-out American social solipsism. Golden Rule, people, you can't be all shoutin' down one part of the paper and screeching about the inalienable this and that of some other section at the same time.
posted by umberto at 9:02 AM on June 27, 2008


you can't be all shoutin' down one part of the paper and screeching about the inalienable this and that of some other section at the same time.

Yes I can, it's my Constitutional right.
posted by grouse at 9:17 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, we should definitely amend that part, then. Unless we shouldn't.
posted by umberto at 8:42 PM on June 27, 2008


Golden Rule, people, you can't be all shoutin' down one part of the paper and screeching about the inalienable this and that of some other section at the same time.

Actually you can, because all of the amendments are ongoing legal privileges, they can't be regarded as perfect, each word was laid down by humans to deal with particular socio-political circumstances, changes in those circumstances requires reconsideration of the relevant law.

I think you're misapplying the Golden Rule in this case. As a legal document it's perfectly open to being changed via the application of political will. It is legitimate to criticise all or part of the document and to campaign for its change. In terms of specific amendments its perfectly possible to want to have a change which will affect both you and others, i.e that you abide by the same laws, just a different set. I think many people are happy to have a situation where legal documents or parts thereof are open to change, indeed this is the current status with the US constitution, and anything less would be indicative of a failed legal process. The constitution and its parts are not sacrosanct.
posted by biffa at 1:21 AM on June 30, 2008


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