16 May 2013

Don’t Ever Talk to the Police

Big Brother 57 Comments

This is a classic. If you’ve never seen it, you need to watch this. You can start watching at 5:55 if you’re short on time.

57 Responses to “Don’t Ever Talk to the Police”

  1. GabbyD says:

    I dont understand the last case.

    if u tell the police that you were elsewhere, nothing incriminating, and they police later finds a credible witness that refutes you, why would that hurt you?

    at worst, it wont help you, necessarily, given that the credible witness exists.

    but it wont hurt you either.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Because the DA can paint you as lying to the police, which sounds worse than just you disagreeing on the stand with what some other witness is claiming. It makes no sense in the grand scheme of things, but this guy is a veteran defense attorney and the cop sitting there in the classroom agreed with what he was saying.

      • Gene Callahan says:

        “but this guy is a veteran defense attorney”

        Hmm, I wonder if that might give him a motive for always wanting to get an attorney involved in every encounter between a cop and a citizen?

        Nah, couldn’t be.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          I’m going to need a defense attorney if you keep sassin’ me like that, Gene.

        • Dyspeptic says:

          I don’t think the point of the video is to literally never talk to the police. The point is that if they consider you a SUSPECT IN A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION you would be wise to vigorously invoke your 5th Amendment rights for all the reasons featured in the video. The video gives the example of Martha Stewart who was convicted of perjury, not insider trading. Another good example I would offer is Scooter Libby, also convicted of lying to investigators. If they had kept their yap shut neither would have gone to federal prison. The police are trained interrogators and have broad license to lie to a suspect to extract incriminating statements. Talking to them under such circumstances is just foolish and naive.

          When it comes to legal expertise, I’ll take the advice of a fast talking, flashy defense lawyer any day over the advice of an obscure economics professor with a track record of repudiating his own work.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          “In the eyes of the Marxians the Ricardian theory of comparative cost is spurious because Ricardo was a bourgeois. The German racists condemn the same theory because Ricardo was a Jew, and the German nationalists because he was an Englishman. Some German professors advanced all these three arguments together against the validity of Ricardo’s teachings. However, it is not enough to reject a theory wholesale by unmasking the background of its author.” – Human Action, pg 75.

          “Now, recourse to the notion of rationalization provides a psychological description of the incentives which impelled a man or a group of men to formulate a theorem or a whole theory. But it does not predicate anything about the validity or invalidity of the theory advanced. If it is proved that the theory concerned is untenable, the notion of rationalization is a psychological interpretation of the causes which made their authors liable to error. But if we are not in a position to find any fault in the theory advanced, no appeal to the concept of rationalization can possibly explode its validity. If it were true that the economists had in their subconsciousness no design other than that of justifying the unfair claims of the capitalists, their theories could nevertheless be quite correct. There is no means to expose a faulty theory other than to refute it by discursive reasoning and to substitute a better theory for it. – ibid, pgs 78-79

      • GabbyD says:

        “Because the DA can paint you as lying to the police, which sounds worse than just you disagreeing on the stand with what some other witness is claiming”

        but why cant the DA also say you are lying to the court when the credible witness appears?

        what is the difference between lying to the police and lying to the courts? from the DAs POV, isnt that the same?

        • Ken B says:

          Because you might not be testifying.

    • Neil says:

      If you want to know why you shouldn’t talk to the police, see this

      Notice how the officer accuses the student of lying to him (which is a crime) with absolutely no evidence to support his claim.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        You never know if the next cop you face, is one that will ruin your life through lies.

        Trust people, just not the devil inside of them.

        I think being universally suspicious of all cops is healthy, beneficial, and conducive to security of the self, and others.

        • A regular here says:

          This is the key reason. The cops you talk to may not be honest, may not be fair. In such circumstance what you say can only hurt you, never help you. If the cops are trying to get you, because of your race, your politics, your music, your tone, or just randomly, you are better off silent.

  2. Gene Callahan says:

    This seems way over the top. I have probably talked to the police 30 times in my life. Nothing bad has ever come from any of these encounters.

    But if I had refused to say anything, I’m pretty sure that in several cases I at least would have suffered major inconveniences like being dragged to the station.

    • joeftansey says:

      I agree. It looks suspicious if you won’t answer simple questions, like “where were you last night at 9pm”. It may not be incriminating once you get to court, but I think refusing to answer would get you to court a lot faster.

      • Anthony says:

        It shouldn’t be that way though. It shouldn’t look suspicious by invoking our rights. This isn’t to say that we never talk to police though. I’ve been let off the hook for admitting to traffic violations, and this would go out the window had I refused to speak. I think this mostly applies to bigger offenses, and if you know you didn’t do it….. why jeopardize being falsely convicted?

      • Major_Freedom says:

        That only looks suspicious to he or she who already views people as guilty of something.

        The sheep are coming out in full force on this blog.

        “If you did nothing wrong, you should have no problems with the state violating the 4th amendment.”

        • joeftansey says:

          “That only looks suspicious to he or she who already views people as guilty of something.”

          Gee, I wonder why the police are coming to interview me. It must be because they think I’m completely innocent.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Thanks for “educating” me that being “interviewed” by the police automatically means you actually did do something wrong that would justify their suspicions and desire to “interview” you.

            • joeftansey says:

              I didn’t say it actually means that, just that from their perspective it implies that.

              From their perspective.

              (You hate the state. We all get it.)

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Right, “from their perspective”, a perspective of which views people as already guilty of something!

                You’re educating me on why I should understand a cop arresting anyone they feel like, because from their perspective, silence means guilt.

              • joeftansey says:

                I didn’t say what the cops were doing was right, just that if they already think you’re guilty, it makes you look even more suspicious if you refuse to answer very simple questions.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Well you’re moving goalposts a little with that comment. Before it was refusing to answer questions that is cause for suspicion.

                Now you’re saying the person is previously suspected of doing something wrong, presumably on a basis other than mere silence, and not answering questions is but an additional piece of information.

        • guest says:

          The sheep are coming out in full force on this blog.

          You are full of awesome, MF.

          Kentucky Resolutions of 1798

          … it would be a dangerous delusion, were a confidence in the men of our choice, to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism; free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power: that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which and no further our confidence may go; and let the honest advocate of confidence read the alien and sedition-acts, and say if the Constitution has not been wise in fixing limits to the government it created, and whether we should be wise in destroying those limits? Let him say what the government is if it be not a tyranny, which the men of our choice have conferred on the President, and the President of our choice has assented to and accepted, over the friendly strangers, to whom the mild spirit of our country and its laws had pledged hospitality and protection: that the men of our choice have more respected the bare suspicions of the President, than the solid rights of innocence, the claims of justification, the sacred force of truth, and the forms and substance of law and justice. In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief, by the chains of the Constitution.

      • Brent says:

        The attorney’s point is that if you are getting questioned, you are already a suspect (to some degree). So do you want to be inconvenienced in the short-run or risk being “inconvenienced” (e.g., huge trial attorney fees, fines, jail time) in the long-run?

        • GabbyD says:

          but if u are a person of interest, isnt it better to tell the truth when you are innocent?

          i dont see the downside of doing that. if you are a PoI, then if u dont cooperate, you will be put to jail, investigated, etc.

          but if you are innocent, isnt there a chance that they will just let you go esp if there is no real evidence?

          • anon68 says:

            Why does ‘lawyering up’ = non-cooperation?

            I have attended ‘self defense’ classes taught by police officers. In each class they have said if you are ever involved in an altercation and ‘win’ it, no matter how in the right you think you were, always tell the officers who show up that you will be happy to talk with them with your attorney present.

            You may not be making it ‘easy’ on the police, but you are not being non-cooperative.

          • joeftansey says:

            If you watch the video, you’ll see its because even if you tell the truth flawlessly, if the police ever obtain any evidence that makes it look like you’re lying, then it’s a lot worse than if you had just kept your mouth shut.

            Lying is more incriminating than being incriminated.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Helping the police as a civilian Stasi doesn’t count.

  3. Bitter Clinger says:

    For additional reading you might want to try:

    http://www.amazon.com/Busted-Drug-War-Survival-Skills/dp/0060754591 by Chris Fabricant.

  4. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Bob, off topic, but the link to your post ““If the Fed Ever Started Monetizing the Debt, We’d Be in Trouble…”, and its comment section, seem to not work.

  5. Razer says:

    I didn’t cooperate last time for riding my bike on the sidewalk, and I refused to answer any questions since they kept telling me I was doing nothing wrong but had to run my name anyway. They ended up taking me to jail over it. When I asked for a continuance so the ACLU could review my case, the prosecutor dropped all charges. If I had done what most people do and plea out, I’d have been caught up in the justice system over riding my bike on the sidewalk (I wasn’t even doing that). I’ve been at the other end of police abuse and I can’t stand clowns like Gene who say things like, “as long as you’re not doing anything wrong, cops won’t give you any trouble.”

    I think guys like Gene enjoy the police state and secretly want to control it.

    • Jonathan Finegold says:

      Oh c’mon.

      Some people have had bad experiences, other people haven’t. I’m not that suspicious of the police because I’ve never had a bad experience. In fact, all my experiences have been pretty positive (whether with civilian or military police). So, my trust looks hopelessly naïve to those who have had bad experiences, and I’m sure that a lot of people have had experiences (and I’ve seen them). But, if we’re wrong it’s because we’re naïve, not because we “secretly want to control” the “police state.” And, it’s not because we’re “sheep” (as one commentator suggests above).

      • Major_Freedom says:

        I don’t get this, Jonathan.

        If a person knows that other people have had bad experiences (and with the advent of the internet we can see such experiences happening on a daily basis all over the country), and if a person knows that their own “non-suspicious” judgment is or is likely a product of naïveté rather than truth, then how in the world does concluding that being “non-suspicious” of the police is anything but a self-imposed “faith” in the benevolence of the police in general, and thus a state of mind that is subservient to the police in terms of morality, which I snarkily labelled as “sheep”, or wanting more police presence, which I snarkily labelled as “stasi”?

        Snark aside, I think if someone knows that people are having bad experiences with the police, then I would think being suspicious is the justified way to go, isn’t it? Does it make sense to think that suspiciousness is only justified as soon as bad experiences happen to you personally?

        I have an image in my mind of a person living in a police state, who says he’s not suspicious of the police, because he personally has not had bad experiences, and then suddenly he changes his mind when the police treat him unfairly/coercively. And I think in my mind wow, is that guy ever myopic, and then I wonder what sort of state of mind is required to think like that. And none of them are pretty.

        • Jonathan Finegold says:

          I don’t know I’m naïve. I’m saying that if Gene and I are wrong, it’s because we’re naïve. There are always good and bad experiences with everything. Sometimes Little Caesar’s sucks, but on average I like it, so I still sometimes buy pizza there. I have no reason to be suspicious, because I’ve always have had good experiences. You are free to think what you want, but the only person being myopic is you, because I don’t think it’s that hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone like Gene or I. We’re intelligent people, we must have some good reason (and good reasons can be wrong) for believing in what we do.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Jonathan, I am baffled at how you can think like this.

          I’m not questioning anyone’s intelligence here, I just can’t make heads or tails of how you can know the reason for why you are wrong if you held a particular judgment on the basis of a personal experience, without at the same time knowing whether you’re wrong or not given that you know more than just your own experience.

          If I did not know anyone else’s experience with Little Caesar’s, and my personal experiences were good, then sure, there is little reason to be suspicious of it. But if I knew that others have had bad experiences, all around the country, then it would be absurd, in my mind, to say that I have no reason to be suspicious because my personal experiences have been good, and if I’m wrong, then heck, it’s because I’m naive.

          If someone convinced themselves of that, then can you understand how they might be interpreted as having some irrational faith in Little Caesar’s? That the reason Little Caesar’s treated others badly, is because there is something bad about them, and the reason they treated you well, is because there isn’t?

          I’m reminded of that poem “First they came for the…”.

          I just don’t get it…

          • Ken B says:

            He is simply saying anecdotes are not data. Since there will always be bad experiences just hearing of a few is not compelling evidence in and of itself. He (and Gene) might be naive but from what he has seen he does not see strong evidence of a pattern.

            I’m not agreeing with Jonathan, just clarifying.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              “but from what he has seen he does not see strong evidence of a pattern.”

              Personally, or through research that includes others? If it’s just his experiences, I don’t see how “He is simply saying anecdotes are not data” can be right.

          • Jonathan Finegold says:

            There have also been plenty of good experiences, all around the country. And, a libertarian blog is not an unbiased sample.

    • GabbyD says:

      ” and I refused to answer any questions since they kept telling me I was doing nothing wrong but had to run my name anyway. They ended up taking me to jail over it. ”

      isnt this evidence that you should answer questions?

  6. Jonathan Finegold says:

    Don’t all those gangster movies say the same thing, “I won’t say nuthin’ ’til you call my lawyer.”

  7. Hank says:

    There are times when the police are pressured to find something incriminating. This can be political pressure, or they want to look like they are doing there jobs for their bosses. In tight-knit, affluent communities, the police are better scrutinized by an active public, so there is less risk in being cooperative by talking. However, in impoverished areas, the police are way more likely to be draconian, or even take advantage of people’s lack of knowledge about their legal rights. Even if you are an educated, affluent person making their way though, they won’t treat you any differently. When a police officer asks, “How fast were you going?” Self-incrimination, even if it makes you seem more cooperative, will not get you anywhere, and neither will lying. You should always flex your legal rights so the police won’t take advantage of a passive public.

  8. Joseph Fetz says:

    I personally try not to have *any* contact with the police under any circumstances. But in the event that I do, then I treat it much like any other situation in which a complete stranger is asking me questions: I will tell you only the information that I decide is safe to divulge. If I decide that you don’t need to know something, then you simply don’t need to know it. And I am certainly not going to say anything more than is necessary.

    The difference I guess is that in the case of a cop, the complete stranger is armed and his entire job is to identify real or perceived violations of statute. Most people are not privy to the statutes and in an encounter with a cop they will generally be in an anxious and uneasy state, so it does make sense to have a specialist speak on your behalf. It’s hard to decide which statements are benign and which could possibly be incriminating, so for the average person it probably is good to keep your mouth shut as much as possible depending upon the situation, because obviously anything you say can (and will) be used against you. The only absolutes are that if you did indeed commit the crime then you should be completely mute, and if the cop is asking your permission then the answer should always be “no”.

    Speaking of uneasiness, I did recently get pulled over for a traffic violation (speed trap). As the cop was handing me the ticket he noticed that my hands were shaking a bit, so he asked me why I was so nervous. I told him, “if you were stopped by an armed stranger and you were unsure of his intentions, wouldn’t you be nervous?”. He didn’t answer.

  9. Todd S. says:

    There are obviously no absolutes that hold up perfectly, including “Never talk to the police.” However, I highly recommend avoiding it, should it come up. I learned this from reading a blogger who is a federal defense attorney:


    Maybe we could modify the guidance to say that if a FEDERAL investigator shows up, don’t answer any questions without an attorney present?

  10. Yancey Ward says:

    I was an alternate juror on a high profile Connecticut armed robbery/murder case in 2000, and I can tell you right now that you should never talk to the police under any circumstances, nor should you communicate any details of your activities with anyone other than your lawyer while in the custody of the criminal justice system.

    The two men charged in the case were both clearly guilty, but what troubled me is that the jury would have found them guilty even if they weren’t simply based on just such testimony from “reliable witnesses” that contradicted their own statements.

    • Jonathan Finegold says:

      Yea, juries tend to be non-critical. I remember when I was still a minor I went to court with my dad, because he was on a jury for a murder trial. The guy was clearly guilty (I went on one of the last days, where they did a recap of the evidence), but the jury decided he was guilty before they even started deliberating. My dad was the dissenting opinion just for the sake of forcing the rest of the jurors to actually debate. My dad didn’t feel that it was right to condemn someone to x (maybe life, I don’t remember — he murdered two or three people) years in jail without actually thinking about it.

  11. Bob Murphy says:

    My favorite part of this guy’s presentation didn’t actually make it into this clip. He has a scenario where the cops are driving the suspect down to the station, and in the back seat of the car he hears them mention that the murder victim was shot.

    Then, in the station with the cameras rolling, the suspect says, “I didn’t kill Jones. I’ve never even fired a gun.”

    Then in court, the cops say, “We never told him Jones was shot.”

    The defense lawyer can then put up the suspect, who will say, “Oh, I overheard them in the squad car on the way to the station,” and the cops can go back up on the stand and say, “No, he’s lying, we didn’t say that in the car, why would we do that?”

    (I’m possibly altering the details a bit, but this was the spirit of it.)

    This is what the guy is talking about in the video when he says the police could either be lying or genuinely mistaken. So this would be a situation where the client is innocent, had the whole interview recorded, and gave nothing but truthful answers, yet it looks really incriminating.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Now the cops are writing confessions on the suspects’ behalf.

    • Silas Barta says:

      He *did* include that point; he just did it instead by using the framing device of the “news story” and “quiz” he asks, rather then telling it as a police arrest scenario.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        It’s the same scenario I think Silas–or at least, they’re connected. But I’m saying, in this version, I think a new viewer wouldn’t fully get the point. (You and I have both seen the full talk, right?)

  12. A regular here says:

    In the state where I live it is a felony to store prescriptions in anything other than what they were dispensed in. So if you put your blood pressure pills in one of those daily medicine things that’s a felony. And if the cops search your place or car they can find it and charge you. With a drug offense.

    You really that confident you didn’t annoy the cop somehow?

    So it is right to talk to the cops sometimes. “I do not consent to any searches.”

  13. Jason B says:

    People are pretty lucky here that they’ve had all or mostly pleasant experiences with cops. I’ve had some rotten ones. I’ve had some that are as they should be, “protect and serve” the public. The rotten experiences really erode any faith you have in the jobs of cops because the rotten experiences directly contradict the supposed purpose of cops. So it’s not they are bad at their jobs. It means they are purposely doing the exact opposite of their jobs. It’d be like a firefighter committing arson.

  14. Tom says:

    So am I safe to talk to the police with an attorney? Or should I just not talk to the police at all?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I don’t feel comfortable answering your question. I suggest you seek out an attorney.

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