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Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Right to Remain Silent

  Comedian Ron White tells stories of his apparently checkered past and relates events where he had the right to remain silent but not the ability!  That failure to exercise your rights can be more harmful than most realize.  I cannot tell you about the number of video tapes I have seen of suspects in custody, handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, who share information that they would never want to be heard by anyone else, especially law enforcement.

   The proceeds of a robbery safely hidden or disposed of to never be found again, but for the foolish loose lip syndrome that infects people when confronted by law enforcement.  Drugs hidden in a place they would never be found, even with the help of a dog, given up by the back seat discussion of co-defendants in custody.

  There is no constitutionally protected right to privacy in a public place or the backseat of a patrol car.  I don't care what you saw on TV.  It doesn't matter what Judge Judy said!  You have no expectation of privacy in places other than your home or other such protected locations.  Digging a shallow grave in your backyard in full view of your neighbors is not protected behavior!

  Talking on the telephone from a jail cell is not the place to invoke a poorly created code to cover some nefarious action you wish to discuss.  With modern equipment and digital recording there is very little you can do that won't come back to haunt you.  Have you ever looked at the light posts in shopping mall parking lots.  Yes those are cameras on top and yes they can take videos of you on their property without your permission.  Yes it is dumb to drive the stolen vehicle to a mall and enter a store using the credit cards you found inside.

  I am not attempting to counsel people on committing crimes but I am telling you your actions, your speech and your behavior can carry consequences that you don't anticipate.  The reason there are criminal defense lawyers is that law enforcement can take innocent intentions, words or actions and view them in a way that you end up in custody.  When that happens people are often astonished!  How could they arrest me?  It happens routinely across our great country and innocent people end up in a system they don't understand expending their resources, or those of their families, getting out of the hot water they so casually stepped in without thinking.

  FACDL has a T-shirt I wear frequently that provokes comments.  The front says - "You have the right to remain silent...!"  The back finishes with - "Now use it!"

  Don't think for a minute that is insignificant advice.  Look at George Zimmerman and his actions in the days after the unfortunate death of Trayvon Martin.  He was a good law abiding citizen.  Had nothing to hide!  Wanted to cooperate with the police.  If I asked for a lawyer they would think I was guilty!  They said I probably didn't need a lawyer it was just a few questions!  I have heard them all  from all kinds of people that have wandered into my office because they are either under investigation or have already been arrested.

  It starts out quite simple, "you wouldn't mind explaining to us how it went down would you?"  Having nothing to hide people voluntarily comply.  Now, no one thinks that the situation they are describing was emotionally charged, happened so fast and has been replayed in their mind so many times that it is no longer a picture perfect rendition of the events.  Then the questions start that pick your story apart and you change a word or two, where you were standing or how something might have actually happened instead.  Soon thereafter you hear "please put your hands behind your back and turn around."  Next its handcuffs snapping shut!  Eventually cell doors!

  Our Constitution is there for a reason and it serves purposes for all of us.  When you fail to avail yourself of its protections you can end up in hot water and, even worse, sometimes jail or prison.  Just think about the number of times you see law enforcement officers facing charges.  Who is always next to them?  They will "lawyer up" in a New York minute and zip their lips with alarming speed.  I will bet you George Zimmerman wishes he had done the same.  You should!


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