Why You Should Never Talk to the Police

This is an engaging and fascinating video presentation by Professor James Duane of the Regent University School of Law, explaining why -- in a criminal matter -- you should never, ever, ever talk to the police or any other government agent. It doesn't matter if you're guilty or innocent, if you have an alibi or not -- it isn't possible for anything you say to help you, and it's very possible that innocuous things you say will hurt you.

Definitely worth half an hour of your time.

And this is a video of Virginia Beach Police Department Officer George Bruch, who basically says that Duane is right.

Posted on July 31, 2008 at 12:52 PM • 111 Comments

Comments

The EelJuly 31, 2008 1:52 PM

Standing mute is a presumption of "not gulty"...but sometimes silence speaks volumes.

CalebJuly 31, 2008 2:19 PM

I've always figured that if I ever found myself confronted by a government or law officer, that I would repeatedly tell them that I have every intention of cooperating but not without the presence of a lawyer representing me.

No need to be standoff-ish about it (as movies/TV often depict).

BillJuly 31, 2008 2:25 PM

I'm working at a law school, and have personally served, with generations of family in Law Enforcement.

This may be a 45 minute video pair, but I have never heard the advice presented so clearly and effectively to the point.

In fact, prior to seeing this, I had not realized that while "anything you say can/ will be used against you" ; nothing you say can/ will be used to help you.

Henning MakholmJuly 31, 2008 2:31 PM

Right. Because as an individual citizen, you have no interest in helping the police solve crimes. Even if you're innocent, you don't have any legitimate interest in seeing the case solved correctly. Therefore, if you know something that could help the police locate the real perpetrator, it is your moral duty to do everything you can to prevent that information from falling into the hands of the police. Heck, they are PAID to solve crimes and you're not; what moral right do they have to expect your help in doing THEIR job? NEVER TALK TO THE POLICE.

BorneJuly 31, 2008 2:43 PM

So, to Henning's point, I think Professor Duane is probably right when you're just considering your own safety in a criminal investigation. But, I think he may have overstated things from a practical point of view. The things he said probably hold just as true when (for instance) the police are going door to door looking for information, or questioning people at the scene of the crime. But on the other hand, in this case you (probably) aren't a suspect at all, they are just looking for information. And any information you can give them to help solve the crime is probably in everyone's best interest - well, except for those guilty of the crime.

However, I don't think the transition from the police just looking for information to interviewing a suspect is very well defined. If they start to get suspicious, and eventually decide you're a suspect, I'm sure they will use *everything* you've said.

To make things even trickier, if the police come to your door to ask you about a crime in the neighborhood, and you immediately "plead the fifth", that's going to look very suspicious.

So I don't think it's as cut and dried as the video made it out to be, unfortunately.

I think it is safe to say, if the police want to take you in for questioning, get a lawyer and exercise those fifth amendment rights!

(IANAL)

SmailJuly 31, 2008 2:44 PM

Regent University is Pat Robertson's place. Maybe they actually know what they're talking about, for once.

Anonymous Moi?July 31, 2008 2:45 PM

Bruce/Moderator: off-topic, but the 100 latest doesn't appear to be updating.

kosmonautJuly 31, 2008 2:45 PM

henning, the point is not to refuse to help law enforcement, but to make sure you do it with a lawyer present. that's all.

JasonJuly 31, 2008 2:50 PM

@Henning Makholm

In our burgeoning police state, what more do you expect from the terrorized populace?

Better to blend into the background than to stand up and make yourself a potential target, right?

The ghetto principle of always saying, "I didn't see anything" has grown to middle class.

With good cause.

Under the guide of Homeland Security, our liberties are being encroached upon in ways more suited to Soviet Russia than to the United States of America.

Do you trust "the government", the President, Congress, or the Senate to act in your best interests or in the best interests of themselves and the lobbyists feeding them policy?

The police are an extension of this blatant disregard for The Constitution. They take their cues local government, who in turn are guided by state government, etc. When UFO researchers are branded as terrorists, when people can be held without trial or charge for years, when torture is an approved method of interrogation, what are the police supposed to think?

They are human beings. People.

People make choices based on what they know and see as well as what they are told.

Would a typical police officer willingly abuse his authority to intimidate and possibly injure you? No.

But would the same officer tread close to the edge in order to rout out a terrorist? You bet they would. That's protecting the people even if it is guided by a federal policy of hyperbolic rhetoric and downright deception.

Your position, Henning, assumes an ethical world full of moral people. I suppose it is in a way... but with the government defining what "ethical" is instead of a loving God or even a logical consensus and with "morality" being relegated to subjective relativism based on the situation at hand.

I would love to live in the world you think exists, Henning Makholm. But, unfortunately, this world, the one we live in right now, isn't it.

SnullbugJuly 31, 2008 2:54 PM

Actually, if you try to help the police and later become a suspect, according to law they cannot use anything against you that you say before they give you the Miranda warning. All the same, if you do become a suspect, anything you have already said is going to come out some way if you don't have a good lawyer.

AnonymousJuly 31, 2008 3:01 PM

@Borne

"To make things even trickier, if the police come to your door to ask you about a crime in the neighborhood, and you immediately "plead the fifth", that's going to look very suspicious."

But then again, if the police come to your door and you are open and up-front, and serve them cookies and pie while you answer all their questions in unrelenting spontaneous detail, that will look suspicious too.

@Jason

"Would a typical police officer willingly abuse his authority to intimidate and possibly injure you? No."

Don't be stupid. The answer is "yes":

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/30/nyregion/...

It is well, well, beyond the time the "good apples" begin to make themselves visible.

AnonymousJuly 31, 2008 3:12 PM

Snullbug: "Actually, if you try to help the police and later become a suspect, according to law they cannot use anything against you that you say before they give you the Miranda warning."

Whatever you say to a cop is evidence to be used against you. The Miranda warning is only given to those the police arrest. When the catechism is recited, it doesn't magically erase any prior statements you made.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miranda_warning

JasonJuly 31, 2008 3:13 PM

@ Anonymous
[quote]
"Would a typical police officer willingly abuse his authority to intimidate and possibly injure you? No."

Don't be stupid. The answer is "yes":
[/quote]

I am friends with a number of police officers. In my experience, most of them are good guys interested in keeping the streets safe.

My issue is that they are being exposed to increasingly aggressive methods and being told that it is okay.

Somebody won't shut up? Tase'em.
Still won't shut up? Tase'em again.

They are men and women just like you and I. They aren't robots or machines, or evil clones.

Thrust into a morally ambiguous environment and given little oversight and great leeway leads to good people making bad decisions.

I can't fix it. You probably can't either.

It has to come from high up. They need examples of politically powerful people behaving responsibly and using their position and power for the betterment of *all*.
They need to see folks being kind and merciful, but still stern and grounded.
They need to see true justice, not the lynch mob justice that so infatuates and infects our media.

Do I trust "the police"? Not especially. Not more or less than I trust any other person I come in contact with.

Do I trust the police officers I know personally? Yes.

Would I expect special treatment if, say, one of the guys I know pulled me over? No. (I'd probably get it anyway, which is beside the point)

Re: New York specifically. The police have been given mandates by their mayor to do whatever it takes (started with Giuliani). Some take advantage of that because they are human beings with human faults. Most do not take advantage of it for their own amusement and aggrandizement.
It worked though. The streets are definitely safer in New York.
When you run out of thugs and still have the same mandate, you have no choice but to start going after lesser offenders.

Mass ResidentJuly 31, 2008 3:22 PM

Regent University famous alumnus... Monica Goodling (Formerly of the DoJ). She sure knows how not to go to jail.

Clive RobinsonJuly 31, 2008 3:24 PM

Two things,

Firstly in some countries most notably the U.K. You nolonger have a right to silence. A judge is allowed to bang on about it and how it reflects on the defendent in his summing up which is effectivly the last thing the jury hears before going off to vote on if you will be releived of you freedom...

Secondly, I think it was Marther Stuart who followed the advice of her lawyer but still fell afoul of some U.S. Legislation for lying to a fedral agent (or some such). Bruce bloged about it some time ago (just wish I could remember when though).

PaulJuly 31, 2008 3:31 PM

I'm going to have to disagree... as already mentioned, Regent University is a joke.

Almost all of his examples involve murder, which fits his message perfectly because there are easy ways to be proven innocent if you actually are (DNA, etc.) and where the police are very, very likely to try to trap you as guilty. As it relates to this blog, this is probably true for cybercrime as well: I wouldn't speak about what I do or give them my laptop.

But early on he uses Monica Goodling as an example. Really? There's no DNA equivalent to show she didn't use illegal hiring practices. Like anything else, he gives an extreme message that has some validity but should be taken in moderation.

And while I don't trust the government for a whole lot either, I don't distrust them enough to reach this level.

Henning MakholmJuly 31, 2008 3:36 PM

Jason (at 2.50):

In your ideal society, which measures would there be to solve crimes? Would the police just file reports of crimes, only to file them away unsolved because the could get nobody to furnish them with any information they could use to solve it? Do you think there should be a police at all, and if there should be, then what would it be there for if everybody refused to talk to them, about anything, ever, on principle?

If there isn't going to be a police, then what are people who feel themselves wronged to do? Even in an utopia full of rainbows and fluffy bunnies, some people ARE going to feel wronged now and then, if only because of misunderstandings. What are those people going to do if there is no police (or if there is only an ineffective police that nobody will talk to)? Guns at dawn?

I wish these questions were rhetorical, but I honestly cannot figure how you and Duane think law enforcement ought to take place if the police could not talk to people.

I'm emphatically NOT assuming an ideal world full of moral people. There are evil scary wrongdoers out there, and I want
a world where those people are brought to justice, not one where they go free because everybody is afraid to help the police.

kosmonaut: Which part of "never" does either you or I fail to understand?

Michael AshJuly 31, 2008 3:38 PM

@Paul

Maybe he overstated, but he does have one very simple point which appears to me to be 100% correct: whatever you say to the police, it will not help you.

Is that wrong? Is there a case where talking to the police will help you? If the answer to that is "no" as I believe it to be, then there is simply no reason to do so. It might hurt, it won't help, so what reason would you possibly have to do it?

Nobby NutsJuly 31, 2008 3:45 PM

I wonder how that advice translates to the UK (or Engalnd, anyway) where the miranda-like caution reads "You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court."

That statement seems to bias not saying anything to the police against you. Clearly IANAL.

JasonJuly 31, 2008 3:46 PM

I appear to have contradicted myself.

Allow me to weasel out of it.

"Police should not be trusted because they are told, at the highest levels, to do whatever it takes."

"I trust some police because I know them personally."

The police I trust are not trusted because they are police, but are trusted because they are either friends of family and I know them well.

Just as the police are supposed to be weary and suspicious, so am I.

RoyJuly 31, 2008 4:06 PM


The police will never believe any exculpatory thing you say in your defense, but they will believe everything you say which they could possibly see as incriminating.

In parallel, cops will never believe anything a career criminal says in his own defense, but they will believe everything he says that incriminates someone else. The prosecution presents snitches as paragons of virtue.

There is no fair trial when the entire government teams up against the lone individual.

This is why voir dire is such an insidious evil. It allows the prosecution, the judge, and the defense counsel to work in concert to bias the jury in favor of people who are prejudiced in favor of judges, prosecutors, and the police. The trial then plays out to the entertainment of their fans, who can be counted on to deliver what the judge wants almost all the time.

We cannot do better than a random selection of jurors. The first twelve drawn become the jury. The judge, prosecutor, and the police then take their chances, and whenever they face a hostile jury they will lose the case every time. Ending the deliberate biasing of juries would make jury trial the preferred option for the accused.

Instead what we get is framing the suspect, guilty or not. If you are innocent, the cops will convince you know that they can produce all the false witnesses and fabricated evidence to guarantee a conviction on every imaginable charge. If you'll make a false confession, they'll offer to let you cop to lesser charges. You already know that they are willing to commit crimes to destroy you, so you cave in. Who could blame you?

EricJuly 31, 2008 4:24 PM

Bruce claims, "it isn't possible for anything you to say to help you." That claim is so over the top as to be laughable.

I'm willing to bet that many times throughout our history someone has said something to the police, which put the police on the right track, on a track away from the speaker.

aikimarkJuly 31, 2008 4:53 PM

This is another example of "DO NOT TALK TO ANY GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE" without your lawyer!

This is expecially true when it comes to to federal employees, since you may face severe penalties for giving false statements even though you are not sworn in as a witness or being deposed. It doesn't matter what government branch, level (or job description) of employee, or innocuousness of the question.

I searched for a decent reference but didn't find it. Sorry.

I suspect that some states might have similar penalties for non-law enforcement agents, but that is also unconfirmed.

Henning MakholmJuly 31, 2008 5:52 PM

Having thought a bit more, let me try again, less polemically:

The speaker on the video makes a case that speaking to the police increases the risk of being innocently convicted of a crime. I have trouble believing that the risk is as significant as he makes it out to be, but we really have no way to quantify it when all we're given is anecdotal evidence for it.

What I do not accept is the inference that because of this risk, I should "never, ever, ever talk to the police". I stipulate to the existence of a risk, but it is a risk that one just has to take, because if everybody refused to talk to the police in criminal investigations, everything would break down. The police would not be able to investigate crimes; criminals would never be caught or convicted; crime would begin to pay and society would crumple.

In more philosophical terms, our collective security (from crime) demands that sufficiently many of us are willing to put up with a modest personal risk now and then.

If all were to follow the essentially selfish strategy advocated by the video, it would be a classic "tragedy of the commons" - everybody want the protection of effective law enforcement, but nobody will "pay the cost" by risking to collaborate with the police in solving crimes. However, that is not what we see in practice. People do talk to the police. A large fraction of crimes do get solved. The system does work.

But the benefits of a functioning society never come for free; they must be bought day for day, hour for hour, by citizens who find that society worthy to uphold, even if at some minor personal risk or inconvenience. It is a civic duty to help the police, even if there's a theoretical risk attached to it. In any case, the burden of talking to a policeman sometimes is much less onerous than that of going to war and risking life and limb in defense of the state, or even than the sedentary sacrifice of the taxpayer.

Now, there is certainly something to be said for caution in the narrow case that the police you're talking to actively suspect you of the crime they investigate. But that's a far cry from "never, ever, ever". Most of people that police ask questions of are not suspects.

Tom MJuly 31, 2008 5:58 PM

In New York City, there have been several (read far too many) incidents in which police shot unarmed citizens. In each case the officers have been acquitted of any crimes. The simple explanation: the cops don't try to explain what happened. They remain silent and force the prosecution to try to prove criminal activity. By not answering any questions of NYPD investigators or from the D.A.'s office or testifying before grand juries they don't say anything that can be proven false by physical evidence or other witnesses. Also by waiting until the prosecution has presented its case, the defense can choose just what aspect to attack to suggest reasonable doubt.

I've never been questioned for anything more serious than a speeding ticket (and I'd like to keep it that way), but I would definitely follow the strategy that works for the cops themselves.

@aikimark - You are right. That is what Martha Stewart went to jail for, after all.

Michael AshJuly 31, 2008 6:38 PM

@Henning Makholm

If society wants my help in solving crimes, then they must remove the threat of putting me in jail for trying to help. Until that threat is gone, my silence will remain.

John C. KirkJuly 31, 2008 7:12 PM

I think there are a few issues here. (Disclaimer: I'm from the UK, so I don't have any personal experience of the US legal system.)

1) The title is ridiculously overblown, when Prof Duane (echoed by Mr Schneier) says that he will *never* talk to a police officer. For instance, if you were lost, would you ask a policeman for directions? Earlier this evening, I saw some police officers dealing with a guy who was lying on the ground (head injury), so I approached them and volunteered my services as a first aider; I then waited with him until the ambulance arrived. Is anyone seriously suggesting that I risked incriminating myself by doing this, and that I should have just carried on walking?

2) I think there's an important distinction between giving a witness statement and being questioned as a suspect. I witnessed an RTC (Road Traffic Collision) a few years ago, involving three vehicles. I gave a statement to the police, and technically I could have got in trouble (one of the wing mirrors on my motorbike was missing), but the policeman didn't leap at the chance to arrest me, presumably because he recognised that I was doing him a favour. Also, even though I had nothing to gain from this, I helped the driver of the middle vehicle, because I saw that he had stopped in time - he was pushed into the front vehicle by the lorry behind.

3) The (physical) audience at Prof Duane's talk were all law students. As a lawyer, your job is to get your client acquitted, not to actually get the guilty person convicted, so it makes sense to "play it safe", and avoid anything with the slightest risk. As a member of the public, my priorities are different, and I'd prefer not to have axe murderers roaming the streets.

4) At one point in the video, Prof Duane gives an example of another lawyer who talked to the police, and then wound up with his word against theirs: they claimed that he'd admitted grabbing hold of someone, and he denied it. If we assume that this other lawyer was telling the truth, that means that the police made up the entire thing. If that's the case, what would he have to gain by refusing to talk to them? I.e. he could say "No, I never confessed to that, in fact I refused to talk to them at all", and it would still be his word against theirs.

5) I don't believe that the police are all out to convict innocent people. Going from personal experience, I was in a situation about 10 years ago when a prostitute tried to mug me on my way home (she threatened to stab me unless I gave her money). I was able to run away, and I then called the police. When they arrested her, she claimed that I'd attacked her (and maintained this in court), so it was a case of my word against hers. I phoned the police in the first place (when I was safely at home), and I went along to the police station and spent several hours there, giving them a statement and being checked over by their doctor (for injuries matching her weapon). According to Duane and Schneier, this was a very bad idea, because I had nothing to gain, and everything to lose. Meanwhile, the lady in question refused to say anything (on the advice of her lawyer), and came up with a fairly elaborate story when it came to court. The judge made it clear to the jury that it was pretty suspicious for her not to have mentioned any of this when she was first arrested. Meanwhile, the police made it clear to me right from the start that they didn't believe anything she'd said, and that whatever happened in court, I'd be going home to sleep in my own bed that evening. The end result was that she was sentenced to 18 months in prison. So, leaving aside any issues of justice, and looking at it from a purely pragmatic point of view, I don't think that "refuse to speak to the police" was a particularly effective tactic there.

Bottom line: I think that if you haven't done anything wrong, and you cooperate with the police, then it will be better for everyone.

Henning MakholmJuly 31, 2008 7:21 PM

Micael Ash:

If you're thinking of society of "they" rather than "we", then you and they have both already lost it.

How would a classical "country house whodunit" ever be solved in your ideal society? Yes, it is an unrealistic extreme rather than an average crime investigation, but it serves well as an archetype for the purposes of discussion. One of these 12 suspects must have murdered old colonel Finch. Chances are overwhelming that the 11 innocent ones have information that will identify the villain, and less indirectly than in the books too.

Unfortunately, every character takes your position and refuses to speak to the brilliant detective except in exchange for a binding promise not to be prosecuted for the murder. However, it is impossible to eliminate ANYONE as a suspect without first hearing SOMEONE's evidence. What would you have the detective do? Shrug and let everyone go? Or break the deadlock by throwing dice and randomly promise one of the suspects immunity -- thus risking that the villain, once identified, cannot be convicted?

mozJuly 31, 2008 7:22 PM

@Eric

I'm sure that people sometimes put the Police onto a track (and thus away from themselves), but the point is that that normally only happens when the police are already "sure" the people are innocent already. In which case refusing to help won't get you into any trouble. That's normal. Most people just say "don't remember anything strange officer sorry" no matter what's true. The police can't go around arresting everbody who doesn't cooperate, so helping the police won't help yourself. Just others...

That leads to Henning Makholm's point. Sure, he's helping the criminals get caught, but Michael Ash is helping the police realise they have to reform. That's probably more important in the long term. OJ would probably be in prison if US police weren't so corrupt.

Tom PJuly 31, 2008 7:46 PM

It's worth noting, slightly tangentially, that while it is true that in the UK refusal to answer questions in a police interview can weigh against you in court, this is somewhat (if not entirely) balanced by the far stricter rules about recording interviews. As far as I know, all interviews with suspects must be recorded in full, and the full audio tapes must be provided to the defendant's legal representatives before any trial. So, while there is less scope to refuse to talk to the police, there's also far less scope for the police to take innocent statements out of context, as in several of the examples brought up in these videos.

Henning MakholmJuly 31, 2008 7:53 PM

"Michael Ash is helping the police realise they have to reform."

Is he? As far as I can see, he is refusing to help the police on general principles, and he has made no representation that any "reform", or indeed any behavior or non-behavior on behalf of the police would make the high principle he appeals to apply less.

How is that supposed to induce "reform"? I cannot even conceive of anything the police could do to make him happy, except (perhaps) for disbanding completely and let the mob rule.

AnonymousJuly 31, 2008 8:04 PM

@Henning Makholm:

"What would you have the detective do? Shrug and let everyone go? Or break the deadlock by throwing dice and randomly promise one of the suspects immunity -- thus risking that the villain, once identified, cannot be convicted?"

This is more or less exactly what happens in the real world, Mr. Makholm. Further, the dice throw is not random -- there is almost always evidence independent of suspect testimony.

Occasionally, there are mistakes. Google up "Karla Holmoka".

Ash, Schneier, Duane and the rest are beyond correct: if the cops approach you, it is not in your interests to speak to them. Make them _prove_ their case.

AnonymousJuly 31, 2008 8:07 PM

@John C. Kirk

I'm wondering what video you watched.

The one I saw, and the one being commented on here, is the situation where the police approach _you_ for evidence.

If you are the victim there isn't much alternative but to approach them, is there? I think you'll find that you will be given a lot more respect by the cops too!

Henning MakholmJuly 31, 2008 8:13 PM

Anonymous: You're underestimating how strong my interest is in living under the rule of law, where there is a fighting chance that criminals will get caught.

StinkyJuly 31, 2008 8:16 PM

From experience I can think of one case where talking to the police saved a potential suspect a lot of trouble.

At Westlake Plaza in Seattle about a year ago, a paranoid schizophrenic with a long history of violence brutally assaulted an older man without any provocation. The victim shot and killed his attacker, then waited for the police to arrive. He (and all witnesses present) cooperated with the police, and after the on-site questioning the police determined that the shooting was an obvious case of legal self defense and let the older man go without charge.

If the victim had not cooperated with the police, they would have arrived, seen a body, seen a man with a gun, arrested him, and he would have spent months in jail and a fortune in attorney's fees before being acquitted at trial.

If the witnesses had not cooperated with the police, then the only evidence would have been the body, the ballistics, and the old man's word; and he would probably have been convicted of murder.

AnonymousJuly 31, 2008 8:32 PM

@Henning Makholm:

"You're underestimating how strong my interest is in living under the rule of law, where there is a fighting chance that criminals will get caught."

Then I do not understand your position.

If you are willing to live under the "rule of law", then you have to live under the consequences of the Fifth Amendment.

This means that some guilty people are going to get away with murder.

And this also means that if the police are going to act in a way that can indeed result in the conviction of innocent people on the basis of their own testimony, then you and everyone else would be served better to heed Duane's message and remain completely silent when the police come to you.

Henning MakholmJuly 31, 2008 8:47 PM

Anonymous: You seem to be arguing that because it is intrinsically impossible to convict ALL murderers, I should happily accept a maxim that would lead to NO murderer ever being convicted if we all were to follow it. Words fail to express how fallacious I think this reasoning is.

"And this also means that if the police are going to act in a way that can indeed result in the conviction of innocent people on the basis of their own testimony, then you and everyone else would be served better to heed Duane's message and remain completely silent when the police come to you."

Nonsense. I and everyone else are much better served by living in a society where the police get the information they need to catch criminals. The minor risk entailed by that is far overshadowed by the certain risk of societal collapse if police were not allowed to function.

You still have not specified how you think that the police could possibly act in a way that would make you willing to cooperate with them. Exactly how do you think the police should act to be deemed worthy of knowing information you have that could lead to the apprehension of a criminal?

PeterJuly 31, 2008 8:48 PM

The simplest reason not to talk to the police is at the end of Officer Bruch's speech. He explicitly says that the police are allowed to lie to you during the "interview." If they can lie to you, but you can't lie to them, you're never going to be able to help yourself.

(Which begs the question why is it legal for the police to lie to you during questioning?)

AnonymousJuly 31, 2008 9:13 PM

@Henning Makholm:

"I should happily accept a maxim that would lead to NO murderer ever being convicted if we all were to follow it."

First of all, you have no choice in the maxim: the 5th amendment is the law. It explicitly says I can choose not to cooperate when I am a suspect. And so can you.

Second, there is a little legal ditty that goes something like this: "If the police had enough evidence, they would be arresting you, not talking to you." In a world where no suspect cooperated with the police, they would be 'reduced' to more tangible evidence like fingerprints, etc.

"I and everyone else are much better served by living in a society where the police get the information they need to catch criminals. The minor risk entailed by that is far overshadowed by the certain risk of societal collapse if police were not allowed to function."

Newsflash: the Fifth Amendment is the law. The only way you will get me to cooperate with the police, should they come knocking, is if you torture me.

And, sir, frankly, you can take that kind of world and shove it.

AnonymousJuly 31, 2008 9:20 PM

@Peter:

"Which begs the question why is it legal for the police to lie to you during questioning?"

Well, if we ask Mr. Makholm, I think the answer is "the ends justify the means": whatever it takes to get the Criminals and Malcontents off the streets.

bzelbobJuly 31, 2008 10:20 PM

Fantasic video.

Along similar lines, I would highly recommend the following book for anyone interested:

Arrest Proof Yourself
http://www.amazon.com/...

Similar ideas; minimum information and then "shut the hell up".

It's amazing nowadays how many people have difficulty shutting up.

Michael AshJuly 31, 2008 10:56 PM

@ Henning Makholm

You are confused. My ideal society is not one in which nobody ever talks to the police. Quite the contrary: my ideal society is one in which everybody talks to the police, because the innocent have nothing to fear from doing so. How this ideal is reached is left as an exercise for the reader.

In our CURRENT society, the smart move is to avoid talking to the police, because there is no benefit and there is considerable risk. This is not an ideal. In fact it's sad. But this is how it is. And I'm not going to make it better by talking to the police and exposing myself to the risk of jail time for a crime I didn't commit.

On an unrelated note, I think everyone needs to remember the context of this video. The title does not include the context, so it's easy to apply it too generally. The talk revolves around when the police want to "ask you a few questions", and what a defense attorney should tell his client when his client calls from such a situation and asks what to do. This does NOT mean you shouldn't ask a policeman for help, or offer your services in case of obvious need. Those just aren't the scenario under discussion, and don't fall into the context where this absolute advice is being given.

David Dyer-BennetJuly 31, 2008 11:37 PM

One of the things I really enjoyed about teaching carry permit classes was getting to explain, in detail with examples, to a room full of suburban white middle-aged guys (never 100%, but it definitely trended that way), that the police *were not their friends*. We spend more than half an hour on it in class, generally. And I pointed out that some other people had to worry like that *all the time*, not just if they were standing over a body with a gun some day.

Mike BJuly 31, 2008 11:53 PM

Long story short is that the police can arrest you or detain you or make your life generally miserable at any point they so choose. Sometimes, in the end, you can sue them for false arrest, but that is only AFTER you have spent hours downtown and/or more hours getting whatever they charged you with dropped.

If being honest is too much of a risk, just plead various levels of ignorance. They get that all the time and you won't stand out or piss them off if you just follow the herd.

averrosAugust 1, 2008 1:40 AM

Henning Makholm wrote:

> If you're thinking of society of "they" rather than
> "we", then you and they have both already
> lost it.

Who is that "society" guy? Is it me? Is it a police officer? Who?

You are seriously confused, Henning. Society is an abstract concept, and cannot be rationally thought of as being in the same category as specific people. It doesn't have brain, it doesn't have any interests, nothing can be "good" or "bad" for the society. Whenever someone speaks about "good of the society" it turns out to be about his own good. Which is, most likely, is quite different from mine.

Police officers are enforcers of rules (aka "laws") imposed on us by the ruling class. They are paid out of money extracted from us by threats of violence and imprisonment. Police is *not* legally required to protect mere citizens (as courts held many times already).

Because of that only terminal ignoramuses consider police activities to be conductive to their personal safety or well-being. Police *already* extorts from them, and is not obligated to do anything in return. Police is merely the biggest and the meanest armed gang.

Correspondingly, a sane person would treat policemen just like he would treat other criminals - avoid them as much as possible. Even if some policemen are nice guys, they are still engaged in what amounts to armed robbery on a grand scale.

David CantrellAugust 1, 2008 5:26 AM

And because an ordinary person very rarely knows whether what he's done or seen has stepped over the line into criminality, the rule is even simpler - never ever ever help the police at all.

AnonymousAugust 1, 2008 6:22 AM

@ Michael Ash:

> You are confused. My ideal society is not one in which nobody ever talks to the police. Quite the contrary: my ideal society is one in which everybody talks to the police, because the innocent have nothing to fear from doing so. How this ideal is reached is left as an exercise for the reader.

Did you watch the video? The speaker argues that talking to the police NECESSARILY entails a risk. It's not because of something the police does or doesn't do, it's simply because speaking to somebody in authority is considered risky. There is nothing the police can do to make the risk he describes go away. If you think the police could do something to mitigate the risk (which would not utterly destroy their ability to serve their purpose), then please describe what it is.

You cannot wiggle out of the inconsistencies in your argument simply by declaring their resolution an "exercise for the reader".

> In our CURRENT society, the smart move is to avoid talking to the police, because there is no benefit and there is considerable risk.

I completely fail to see how you cannot consider the ability of the police to solve crimes to be a benefit.

> The talk revolves around when the police want to "ask you a few questions", and what a defense attorney should tell his client when his client calls from such a situation and asks what to do.

Of course the job of a defense attorney is to advice their client from the narrow point of view of the client's own selfish short-term interest.

That does not mean that it would be a good idea if we all took such advice.

> This does NOT mean you shouldn't ask a policeman for help, or offer your services in case of obvious need. Those just aren't the scenario under discussion, and don't fall into the context where this absolute advice is being given.

The phrasing "never, ever, ever talk to the police" is quite explicit and inclusive.

If you want to rephrase it to "only talk to the police, when there's a need to", then there wouldn't be a problem. But that's not what the advice actually is.

HarrazAugust 1, 2008 6:43 AM

Can anyone explain what would happen if I got Mirandized and, when asked if I understood my rights, I said that I did not?

AnonymousAugust 1, 2008 7:12 AM

@Harraz:

You shouldn't answer that question either. Name, rank, serial number, then "I want a lawyer". Repeat as necessary.

RoyAugust 1, 2008 7:15 AM

Think back to John and Patsy Ramsey being invited to help the Boulder PD in their investigation of the murder of their daughter, JonBenet, and look where their cooperation got them.

AnonymousAugust 1, 2008 7:22 AM

@Henning Makholm:

"The phrasing "never, ever, ever talk to the police" is quite explicit and inclusive."

If you strip essential context almost anything can made to look stupid.

Ironically, this is exactly one of the risks that Duane explains in the video.

You really should watch it sometime.

DavidAugust 1, 2008 7:33 AM

I find some of the comments ironic.

Recently a bicyclist in NYC was shoved off his bike by a NYC officer. The Arrest report stated that the bicyclist was trying to run over the officer. The video showed a completely different perspective, and the officer was suspended.

Is that the officer YOU want to "cooperate" with?

What if there had not been a video, what position would the bicyclist have been? Note, that as of this writing the DA still hasn't dropped the charges.

QuercusAugust 1, 2008 8:14 AM

> Michael Ash:
> How this ideal is reached is left as an exercise for the reader.
I guess I'm failing the exercise. Can you give me a few hints?

@David:
Are you saying the person who took the video of the cop assaulting the bicyclist should have shut up about it and refused to give any evidence to the police/DA? If the video had been of a mugger assaulting a cop would your answer be different? Why?

showmea warrantAugust 1, 2008 8:16 AM

Police in minneapolis are a racketeer influenced corrupt organization. They do not live in Mpls, but in a suburb where they routinely elect one of thier own to the legislature represent them. whenever there is talk of ethics or integrity, they squeal like pigs, mayor fraser once refused to accept the mass resignations of all the thug and thief police, that was the last chance to clean out the department. One officer named quinn has written a book about it. A former police chief pretends to be on the right side, but he also appointed thumper neibuhr as head of internal affairs. They spent a month telling people that putting two native american drunks in the trunk of a squad car was somehow 'altruistic'. They have no basic respect for any citizen. On a noise disturbance call in the case of barbara schneider, they home invaded her house, driving her back to the bedroom and then executed her with numerous shots. The woman was disturbed, she accurately called them the 'satan squad'
Their excuse was that 'maybe someone else was in the apartment and in danger' this is a logical fallacy called "catastrophizing' and it is used commonly to excuse police killings.
They spend millions of taxpayer dollars to go to hotels and have classes on how to weasel around your bill of rights. Rights are 'a priori' you have them all the time, they should be respected all the time by professional police, the vast majority of police are not professional but actually corrupt. Hand them any lawyers card and tell them they can submit questions in writing and expect to wait 6 to 10 weeks for answers to any questions that are determined to have relevance.
The supreme court is corrupt also, (bush v gore) etc. It does not see the clear references of the 9th and 14th amendment. It choses against your rights every time. It encourages police to make 'pretext' stops. Pretext is a legal word for lie. while filming officer dug dubay harrassing people, he pretexted that I was 'filming children' I did a 360 degree video and showed that no children were present. eventually I modified his corrupt thugish behavior.
Those who are not thieves or thugs are corrupted by covering for those who are. typically they will get in trouble when they act up outside of minneapolis, firing guns or drunk driving. They are not arrested for domestic violence any more because they would lose the right to carry firearms and lose their jobs, if they lost their jobs instead of covering each others crimes, we would eventually have a professional police force, but at the present, its a racketeer influenced corrupt organization and will remain that way

AlAugust 1, 2008 8:26 AM

Certainly Alan Turing shouldn't have reported the burglary of his flat to the police.

AnonymousAugust 1, 2008 8:27 AM

@Quercus:

"Are you saying the person who took the video of the cop assaulting the bicyclist should have shut up about it and refused to give any evidence to the police/DA?"

I guess the joke is on you, since the video was not actually turned into the police.

haseAugust 1, 2008 8:27 AM

I'd like to see two things:

All the anti-current-state-of-policing people here get involved and learn how the vast majority of crimes are solved by the police today. Evidence is important but unlike we see in movies and TV, much of the evidence typically comes after suspect(s) are arrived at. Human intelligence is more economic and often faster than every case going to a "CSI" lab.

Second, having been a cop, I know there are bad ones and mistakes happen, but I'm not out to arrest innocent people. Near as I could tell, none of the cops with whom I worked were out to arrest innocent people. In fact, our department didn't report an awful lot of small offenses (e.g. personal use marijuana) to build report with the intel sources we needed to catch the more serious criminals.

I think this post is more fear-mongering than some of the things claimed as such by Bruce.

AnonymousAugust 1, 2008 8:49 AM

Police are both your friends and your enemies. I am former law enforcement. Some of my best friends are still law enforcement. I trust them with my life, but not with my freedom if I am found in a compromising position, regardless of the reality of the situation.

I willingly help law enforcement, but I am only a witness after speaking with an attorney. As for interviews, always have a lawyer present. The police interviewing techniques are well-honed, and well-defined. I have personally convinced people that incriminating themselves is the only way to avoid hundreds of thousands in legal fees, and jail time. While I believed then, and still believe that those people were guilty of the crimes that they were accused of committing, I went home everyday questioning the ethics of the law. Not the ethics of the police.

The law is the culprit, not the police (generally speaking). In the United States the average citizen is guilty of a crime at least once a day. From a traffic infraction, to jay-walking, to spitting on the sidewalk, to slander or libel, or even to curse and abuse. Did you know that yelling at someone is a simple assault? Touching someone on the shoulder is technically an assault?

The police can not discriminate in their treatment of any case, or they run the risk of alleged favoritism, racism, profiling, or any number of other complaints that can result in their termination. They may use their judgement to release you, but if you are being invited in for questioning, they already have information that suggests you know something. Therefore, you are guilty in their eyes.

Bruce often talks about the security mindset. The Investigative mindset starts with guilty and works backwards to innocent, or at least not guilty. My job has always been to believe the worst of you until I prove otherwise. So if the law is against you and the police believe you are guilty, then you should have a friend, even if its one you pay for to help you when you are being questioned by them.

Just my $.02...

dubya bushAugust 1, 2008 8:50 AM

As I always say, I don't comment on an open investigation, if they want to question me, I always get karl roves advise. Don't comment

AnonymousAugust 1, 2008 9:06 AM

@hase:

"Human intelligence is more economic and often faster than every case going to a "CSI" lab."

I especially liked how Duane showed how witness testimony is frequently erroneous. Now you say this is "economic". So I guess I can say "you get what you pay for". But since someone else is going to jail, I suppose it doesn't matter.

"Near as I could tell, none of the cops with whom I worked were out to arrest innocent people."

But, somehow, you do anyways! How are these innocent people going to defend themselves best? If the cop is so convinced of their case they _arrest_ someone, are they going to be as interested at that point in exculpatory evidence, as they are for juicy admissions? In an environment where even the tiniest of mistake can doom you to jail, independent of your guilt or innocence, silence is the best option.

crossbuckAugust 1, 2008 9:09 AM

None of you seems to have had any real-life dealings with the cops. I did. In 1984, I was driving to work on evening when I was stopped by the cops. I cooperated with their instructions, but did not talk to them except for saying yes, sir and no, sir. A house along my route had been burglarized and my car happened to resemble the car the owner saw leaving the premises. They brought her to my car and asked her if I was one of the people seen leaving the house. She said no. I was let go and went to work. If I happened to have resembled one of the burglars, I would have been arrested no matter what I said, and although I had a witness to my timeline from leaving my house to being pulled over, it wouldn't have mattered, I would have been booked and processed, all on the word of an agitated witness. Nothing I said would have helped.

Michael AshAugust 1, 2008 9:34 AM

@ Quercus

This exercise is one of those that gets left to the reader because the author doesn't know the answer, sadly.

One idea I had was if the police could tell you before questioning that you are not a suspect and nothing you say can be held against you in court, and have this be legally binding. Make it so that self-incriminating evidence is only admissible under certain known circumstances. But this could still lead to a scenario where your words lead the police to find evidence against you despite your innocence, although it would greatly reduce the risk involved.

The VirginianAugust 1, 2008 10:20 AM

Once my police buddies (state and county within the U.S.) clued me in that their primary responsibility is to provide good fodder for prosecutors, I understood why so many people recommend to say nothing (except, perhaps, "I want a lawyer.") They're a great bunch of folks and put their lives on the line daily, but you have to keep in mind their primary mandate.

re: Regent University. (I'm not affiliated with it in any way.) Despite some always wanting to make the Robertson/CBN connection - whether or not there's anything wrong with that - it has become a solid institution in its own right, especially the law school.

BillAugust 1, 2008 11:04 AM

Peter said "If they can lie to you, but you can't lie to them, you're never going to be able to help yourself" and then asked "(Which begs the question why is it legal for the police to lie to you during questioning?)"

Oh, and who said you can't lie to them? While it might be illegal in some situations that doesn't mean that it's illegal in all situations. It's still ill advised though.

If you lie to the Police it may well come up in court and that will make you appear dishonest. That can't help your case. It's probably unlikely that any lies the Police tell to you will appear in court. If it does, the Police are professional witnesses and are likely to know how to handle it. Furthermore, they can argue that the lie was necessary (e.g. they might lie and say that an alleged accomplice has already confessed). I can not think of any situation in which a defendant can argue that it was necessary for them to tell a lie.

Anyway, it's not the Police that are on trial, it's you.

dragonfrogAugust 1, 2008 11:23 AM

@hase

I don't actually believe this is the what you meant, but your statement here comes of rather lame:

"In fact, our department didn't report an awful lot of small offenses (e.g. personal use marijuana) to build report with the intel sources we needed to catch the more serious criminals."

Which sounds like, if you didn't need to "build raport with intel sources to catch more serious criminals", then you'd be out busting every minor criminal you could find, limited only by your own ability to remember the laws and recognize one being broken. At that rate the only hope any American would have of staying out of jail (given that it's impossible to avoid breaking multiple laws every day), would be to somehow exude the aura of someone who's a potential intel source and could lead to a bigger and better arrest, if only you'll let him go free a little longer.

Sounds rather dystopian, eh?

Johannes RösselAugust 1, 2008 1:09 PM

There was a similar lecture at the 23th Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin a few years ago, about what to do in the event of police searching your flat (http://video.google.de/videoplay?docid=-1550832407257277331 - German, though). It also basically came down to not say anything as everything you say can be used and sometimes you say more than you initially wanted.

RWMAugust 1, 2008 1:47 PM

@ The Virginian

Depends on what you mean by "solid", I guess.

"U.S. News & World Report ranks Regent University School of Law as a Tier 4 school, the lowest ranking within the law school category."

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regent_University)

bobAugust 1, 2008 2:14 PM

I have read many places over decades that the smartest thing if interrogated is to have a lawyer (defending YOU) present and remain silent until then.

However, with the state of the US today where the most basic actions make you susceptible to litigation, it is very very extremely lucrative to be a lawyer. Consequently there are about 300x as many lawyers in the US as we actually (should) need. This means that >90% of all lawyers are either incompetent or corrupt (or both, which is actually better) because we have hired past the point of appropriate matching between jobs and temperament/aptitude (same reason you can never reach 100% employment - some people just can not be employed at anything).

So the question is: how do I find a GOOD lawyer; ie one that is worth what he charges (I mean other than "trial and error" [pun intended]).

H.August 1, 2008 4:29 PM

About two years ago, I have been the victim of an identiy theft and thus became a suspect in a minor fraud case.

Police wanted to question me on the case. Simply by talking to them - on the phone and then explaining the situation via fax - they dropped the case against me.

So while I fully understand (and mostly support) James Duane's argument, I have not been burnt when I didn't follow it.

AnonymousAugust 1, 2008 5:26 PM

Just watch an episode or two of "Cops." If all the consensual searches were "No, I don't consent to a search" and all the flapping gums of the suspects were silence instead, there would be far, far fewer arrests.

"I know you're just trying to do your job, but no, I do not consent to any searches and I am unable to answer any questions at this time. Am I being detained or am I free to go?"

Michael HamptonAugust 1, 2008 9:22 PM

This is the same point that Barry Cooper makes in his movie, Never Get Raided. He says never talk to the police, and if they come to your door, don't even answer.

Of course, his audience consists primarily of people who may be breaking the law, but are not doing anything wrong.

Eric BlairAugust 1, 2008 9:51 PM

Wrong. This seems a simplistic, sensationalistic generalization.

When someone says "Never, ever!" I immediately start thinking of exceptions, which in this case one jumps instantly to mind:

I was pulled over in the Usa driving perfectly legally in every way. The cop requested my credentials, I presented them, they were fine.

Then he said he was arresting me for an assault that day at a nearby mall. I got upset and said I haven't been NEAR that mall in MONTHS!

HE got upset and said, "What do you expect me to DO?! Not only do YOU fit the description to a T, but so does your CAR! 'Honda Accord sedan, yr 200x, Maroon!' "

I said, "Did you see the car ahead of me?"

He said, "Yeah, what was that, the new Mustang?"

I said, "Nooo, a Honda Accord sedan, yr 200x, Maroon!"

He said, "You stay right here! Don't you move!" And he sped off.

Ten minutes later an other cop pulled up, looked at me real closely, laughed and said, "We caught the guy, but wow, if we didn't you probably would have been ID'd [as the perp.]"

As with most sweeping generalizations, they'r highly suspect.

So one one hand there's the GUILTY Martha Stewart, dissing her Dream Team's advice, and blabbing LIES to the authorities. And then there are cases like mine, at least one of which is posted above, where a spontaneous, honest response ends the problem.

Not all cops are looking hang every suspect. Some don't want the hassle of a weak case hung on them.

In GENERAL, I agree w/ the "Don't talk" rule, but as we know in the law, exceptions abound, so don't let "NEVER, EVER!" pronouncements lock you into knee-jerk responses.

MilanAugust 1, 2008 11:09 PM

Does this differ at all in Canada, in terms of things like what rights you have and what it is legal for the police to do?

Anonymous2August 2, 2008 10:34 AM

"If being honest is too much of a risk, just plead various levels of ignorance. They get that all the time and you won't stand out or piss them off if you just follow the herd." - Mike B

Mike, you weren't paying attention to the video. The last thing you want to do is lie to the police. That will definitely get you in trouble.

"Did you watch the video? The speaker argues that talking to the police NECESSARILY entails a risk. It's not because of something the police does or doesn't do, it's simply because speaking to somebody in authority is considered risky. There is nothing the police can do to make the risk he describes go away." - Henning Makholm

Henning, you're missing the point of Michael's statement. He wasn't describing an ideal world that could be enacted by the police alone, but instead an ideal world that has several fundamental differences from the one we have today. If you want some changes that could get us closer, then you could include:
- Audio/Video recordings of police while they are on duty, including interrogations and cameras on firearms.
- No implicit trust in court of police officers over citizens (police officers are citizens too, and some citizens have better records than some police officers)
- No special treatment for police by police.

Some of these can be enacted by the police, and none of them automatically mean that the world would be a worse place or easier to commit crimes in. All of them make it safer to tell the truth to the police. There are probably other changes that could be made also.

mozAugust 3, 2008 4:26 PM

@Henning Makholm

In correction of what I said earlier after more careful thought. I don't think your attitude is actually are helping to get the right person convicted. What the lawyers are saying is a counter intuitive thing. Even if you have a good explanation; giving it is more likely to get the police interested in you than not giving it. When you are a suspect you cannot normally improve the situation by talking.

That means that if you are "innocent" and you talk in an "interview"; you are a) wasting police time and b) reducing the chance of them convicting the guilty (since you are increasing the chance they charge you).

GweihirAugust 3, 2008 7:40 PM

I have to say as someone used to European law practices (but not being a layer), this would look very much like stand up commedy. Unfortunately it seems to really describe the state of affairs. I can only conclude that US criminal law is so badly screwed up that ot cannot be fixed anymore.

Kermit the bogAugust 3, 2008 11:02 PM

Gweihir:
>> I have to say as someone used to European
>> law practices (but not being a layer),...

You're saying you're not a chicken???

bobAugust 4, 2008 8:20 AM

A couple of things Ive always wondered:

At the end of the Miranda warning, they ask "do you understand your rights?" What happens if you say "No"?

"You have the right to an attorney present during questioning. If you so desire but cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you." - Who decides if I can "afford" one? If I'm sitting in a jail cell I am probably not in a position to be price shopping a bunch of attorneys.

ann onymusAugust 4, 2008 8:53 AM

Reading the letters in todays StarTribune, I learn that chief Dolan has awarded medals to officers who conducted a raid/homeinvasion on an innocent family, where the father heard them breaking in and took them on in a gunfight, until they identified themselves and he understood that they were not the usual home invaders. Dolan thinks his men were brave to get into this gunfight, deserve medals. How does the family feel. Sorta like those bounty hunters in phoenix a while back, should they have gotten medals? Years ago, the MPD conducted a no announcement raid that got two of thier officers shot, one remained a vegtable for many years before he heroically died. They learned nothing. They 're still the same.

JensAugust 4, 2008 1:05 PM

"However, I don't think the transition from the police just looking for information to interviewing a suspect is very well defined."

It's defined by the point at which mirandizing is necessary.

JohnnyXAugust 4, 2008 2:32 PM

I haven't had a chance to view the video yet, but certainly will. I enjoy things like that.

However, not having seen the video yet, I will say I agree with the general rule of not talking to the police. My grandfather gave me my first lesson in this when I was 13, before I was allowed to drive. He was pulled over for speeding, and after asking for his license, registration and proof of insurance, he asked: ``Do you know how fast you were going?''. My grandpop declined to answer.

After we pulled away, I asked him why he answered the way he did. He explained to me that you don't have to answer questions at all. Not even seemingly innocent ones like that. He went on to explain the idea that *anything* you say can and will be used against you. So if you admit you knew how fast you are going, their burden of proof in court was increased, and you're chances were better. I can't recall if there was radar involved, obviously that makes a difference.

Anyway examples like the one Eric Blair provided are good examples of how talking to cops can help you. But as a general rule, I will not answer questions.

This has been a great comment thread. I enjoy learning about this aspect of the law, and it's great to take in disparate perspectives on the matter.

ModeratorAugust 4, 2008 8:49 PM

Showmea warrant/ann onymous/etc, sock puppetry isn't allowed here. Choose one pseudonym and stick to it.

Also, you've posted your critiques of the Minneapolis PD to two different threads today. If you have more to say on that subject, I suggest you start your own blog about it.

RenegadeAugust 4, 2008 11:40 PM

StartQuote

Bottom line: I think that if you haven't done anything wrong, and you cooperate with the police, then it will be better for everyone."

EndQuote

You may want to research "The Innocence Project", and look at the case studies, and look at all the folks who "haven't done anything wrong", and thus decide to follow your advice and "cooperate with the police", and then were found guilty of crimes they did not commit, and spent the next several decades in jail.

Me, I am going to ShutUp. YMMV.

John David GaltAugust 4, 2008 11:53 PM

Please post an explanation for those of us who still use dialup and so can't watch youtube videos.

ToddAugust 5, 2008 2:05 PM

Remember:

If something is in the news, it is because it is a freak occurrence and not the norm. When you hear about police abusing their power, it's because it's not the norm. Did you read about me jaywalking yesterday? No. Because it's no big deal and no one cares. If i sprouted wings and flew around the White House... you might hear about it.

Daniel H.August 6, 2008 7:40 PM

What is there to get?

It's simple:

Don't talk to the police when you're in suspect of a crime.

No need to explicitly get into Professor Duane's statement of "I will never talk to the police" or stuff like that.

That is totally missing the whole point.

And although it's nice we have feedback from international sources, please do NOT assume and state your opinions as fact without, as you say, a better understanding of our legal system.

As an example, I would NOT go to a UK forum of law making statements left and right on my loosely based experience with the US legal system, because they are totally different.

And if anyone has any true arguments in favor of the idea that talking to police during an investigation is actually helpful, I would most definitely like to hear it.

Because right now, I don't see anything wrong with Professor Duane's argument.

fresh-eyeAugust 14, 2008 1:04 PM

The paradox of law is this: the more laws proliferate, the less lawful the society.

The Soviet Union had no shortage of laws but who seriously believes it operated under the "rule of law" as understood by, say, Thomas Jefferson? There were so many laws [often conflicting] that no one breathing was not a lawbreaker and everyone was in constant fear of denunciation. It was only livable because officials could be subverted by bribery.

I fear Britain and America have followed the same path, with a consequent weakening of trust between the citizen and officialdom.

Yet society cannot function without that trust and cooperation. If we are to avoid a complete collapse we must reestablish trust. A necessary condition will be the abolition of all the bogus crimes create by legislative fiat [eg. victimless crimes, "perjury" when responding to government "fishing expeditions", tax "evasion" and anything where the government is judge in its own cause].

By the way, perhaps a little biblical law might help reform police practice - confessions were not admissible in court!

JezSeptember 8, 2008 4:53 PM

When in the UK ALWAYS remember the first seven words a Police officer says to you when arrested,

"You do not have to say anything... "

The full arrest caution is, ""You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence."

EVERY Police Officer I know has told me to stick to that rule. NO EXCEPTIONS.

JohnnyOctober 4, 2008 1:51 AM

Sometimes you don't have much of a choice whether you talk to them or not.
www.tonycreed.com/taskforceraid.html

DennisCLathamNovember 15, 2008 12:51 PM

This is sick to know now. I am victom to this now ......

No trial but I tried to make peace with the police along with my mother in a meeting with a major and a kernel

I was accused of having weapons.
I asked when and they refused to answer.

Crap.

I'm glad I know this now.

George BruchFebruary 6, 2009 6:30 PM

I read these comments and realize that some people are confused, some have an agenda and some are paranoid. I was a police officer and am now a defense attorney. I wanted to clear up a few issues:

1. Don't talk to the police if you are a suspect or under investigation for a crime or violation.

2. I can only speak for Virginia, most police are good people trying to do the right thing, however every profession has those few who have issues and will do things that just aren't right.

3. Police can lie because the U. S. Supreme Court said so. And you can lie right back, there is no law against lying. But the caveat is that the police can only lie about certain things, they cannot say they will let you go, or they will get your charges dismissed if you talk to them. They can say things like "I already know you did it" or "your buddy has already confessed." But that's about it.

As one with years of police experience and now serving as a defense attorney I can say this, my opinion the way I approach the law hasn't changed. Everyone deserves a right to a good defense to ensure that all their constitutional rights are protected, that being said if you violate the law you should be held responsible for your actions. As a defense attorney in a case where someone is clearly guilty I must do all I can to minimize the affects of that person's actions.

In a nutshell; you can trust a majority of the police, but if your in trouble have your attorney with you.

VatosMarch 3, 2009 9:02 AM

"Your buddy has already confessed" - hmm, why allow the police to lie about that?

If there is generally the evidence to convict the guilty, why encourage the doom-fearing innocent to volunteer evidence?


As to people being good people, it is worthwhile remembering that how people are depends on circumstances. If you have the mentality that you are protecting society against terrorism, you might allow yourself greater latitude. That is human nature.

Better to allow for the human factor in a criminal justice system

Simon BridgeMarch 4, 2009 3:00 AM

@George Bruch: I'd like to agree with what you said - but add that the vieo is in the context of a law lecture.

This was spelled out at the start.
Also spelled out is a scenario - your client calls you and asks what to do, what do you advise your client?

The thesis is not that you do not talk to he police in any circumstances but that you advise your client, in the case the police approach them, not to talk without immunity.

The rest of the speech was about justifying the statement that 5th amendment rights always apply. This is to say that it is always possible to incriminate yourself no matter what.

It is not always a good idea to remain silent - for instance, where you want to report a crime or help the police apprehend the actual perp. You may even want to assist as an expert witness.

So you are a defense attorney, I call you as your client and say: "the police are at my door, they are investigating an incident, they just want to ask me a few questions, they say I'm not a suspect, I know I didn't do anything, what do I do?"

What is your reply?

This is quite different from - "I'm walking home and a man runs past. Shortly later a police officer runs up, stops and asks 'which way did he go?'"

Now what's the advise?

Though, generally, in the second case, I don't really have time to call my lawyer. Presumably, where I do have time to call for advise, then talking to the police can wait a bit.

I notice that Officer Bruch of the video (and the nature of the internet is that I have no way of knowing if you are he) states that he has never let anyone go on the strength of what they said to him, but in describing the interviews stated that he has let someone go after an interview "because they were innocent".

The question: "Have any of you broken the speed limit?" Is clearly something one should not answer - *probably* the officer has no intention of arresting everyone who raises their hand.

Another thing that struck me was the miranda process - which I always thought meant they gave you orange juice. After each line the suspect is asked: "Do you understand?"

What happens if the suspect says "no"?

It must happen - there must be some standard approach to dealing with it.

Related to that - there must be people who try to play the interview process.

luke_4uMarch 25, 2009 3:37 PM

I believe that Prof. Duane is absolutely correct. Better to be safe, than sorry. You don't have to talk to the police, so why take a chance ? Some people think they can talk the police out of thinking they did something. WRONG ! There is absolutey "nothing" you can say to the police, that is going to help you, or do you any good. "Nothing" ! Save your talking for your lawyer. For God's sake, never ever talk to the police.

Dick46May 26, 2010 11:32 PM

What's the rush. A good lawyer can secure immunity from the DA or US Attorney and you can talk your head off.

stevenJune 22, 2010 11:56 PM

so if you're being questioned about a murder, and you have a ROCK SOLID alibi (you were out the country, say) you should stay quiet, wasting police time and putting yourself under unnecessary suspicion? i would sack any attorney who told me to do that .... awesome lecture though

Geek ProphetAugust 31, 2010 4:43 PM

This one is actually pretty straightforward to me. The "Never talk to the police" suggestion is, IMHO, dead on, *if* certain factors are taken into account.

There are five likely possibilities:

A. You are asking for police help.

B. You have information that can help the police.

C. You are guilty of some crime and your statement might reveal this.

D. Something you have done makes you more likely to be suspected even though you are not guilty.

E. None of the above.

If A is true, then talk to the police. Not telling the police who shot you is just stupid.

If B is true, you should probably talk to the police, assuming you believe that the crime is a bad thing. There is a clear reason for doing so that, IMHO, outweighs the risk.

If C is true, you probably shouldn't talk to police.

If D is true, you probably shouldn't talk to police.

If E is true, you gain and lose nothing.

You can eliminate A and B, but you can *not* eliminate C and D. Eliminating D requires you to know everything the police know, believe, or will find out or come to believe about the case *before you talk to them*, which is clearly impossible. You cannot eliminate C, as C is impossible to avoid in modern society. E doesn't really exist except as a theoretical, because you cannot eliminate C and D. This leaves you with either A, or B, or nothing but risk without significant benefit.

So, if you aren't asking for help, and know nothing particularly useful, then I agree completely with the "never talk to the police" mantra. However, I disagree if this means I can't tell the police who murdered some young woman outside my bedroom window, and I certainly disagree if I can't tell police who shot *me*.

DonSeptember 9, 2011 12:23 PM

The concept of police is absurd, abusive, immoral and corrupt. They are not there to help you ever nor are they ever there when you need help. To give the responsibility of personal security over to the gov is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Society would be more peaceful and have less crime if criminals knew with 90% certainty that the person they are thinking of criminalizing is armed as are the others in that neighborhood! Personal security is a personal responsibility or community responsibility not the gov's. The accounts of police abuse, corruption, inefficiencies and the like fill libraries.

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