Shut Up

Good advice from Popehat

Hence, the government’s chickenshit false statement trap works — even though the government agents set it up from the start. Now, however weak or strong their evidence is of the issue they are investigating, they’ve got you on a Section 1001 charge — a federal felony. In effect, they are manufacturing felonies in the course of investigations.

You think this is an improbable scenario? You think I’m talking about rare and extreme cases to color the entirety of federal law enforcement? To the contrary, as a federal defense attorney, I’m encountering this more and more often. Not to sound like an old fart, but we never indulged in such bullshit when I was a federal prosecutor (cue the scoffing from many defense attorneys). But in the last 12 years, I’ve seen it in a dozen cases, and heard about it from colleagues across the country. It’s now routine for federal agents to close out an investigation with a false-statement-trap interview of a target in an effort to add a Section 1001 cherry to the top of the cake.

The lesson — other than that criminal justice often has little to do with actual justice — is this: for God’s sake shut up. Law enforcement agents seeking to interview you are not your friends. You cannot count on “just clearing this one thing up.” Demand to talk to a lawyer before talking to the cops. Every time.

Read it all.  He explains how easy it is to fall into this trap, and how even non-material statements get spun as felonies.   Remember, Martha Stewart went to the slammer for lying to investigators, not for stock fraud or insider trading.

  • Russ R.

    This isn't a new video, but it's a great argument for why you should never talk to the police... ever.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc

  • Hasdrubal

    Russ, you might want to read the following Popehat post as well. Apparently, providing information about what your rights are and how to exercise them is evidence of criminal activity worthy of supporting a search warrant:

    http://www.popehat.com/2011/12/01/what-law-enforcement-thinks-of-us/

  • Rick Caird

    This technique should have a short shelf life. Basically, the Federal government is going to find people are less and less willing to talk to them. I know I intend to not talk because I cannot trust them. They do not record the conversation but rely on their notes that we never get to see.

  • IGotBupkis, Official Lefty Accounting Magician

    >>> Demand to talk to a lawyer before talking to the cops. Every time.

    I'd amend that to also never, ever inviting them into your house, as well.

    Cops are like vampires, if you don't invite them in, it's harder for them to hurt you.

    That sounds whimsical, but it's got all too much seriousness in it.

    If you don't invite them in, then they can't see, and thus charge you with, some BS little violation of the 10 kabillion pages of State, Local, and Federal statutes which they might be aware of, and which no rational individual could keep track of.

    "No matter where you are, no matter what you are doing, there is some ordinance under which you can be booked."
    -- Kenneth Sprecht, Rand Corporation --

    That quote's about 25 years old, and it hasn't gotten any LESS true in that time.

    If a cop comes to your door and asks to speak to you, and asks you to invite them in, then the proper response is to say, "No, but I will step outside to discuss things with you if you like. May I get a coat?" If they ask why not, "Because there are many, many laws on the books, and while I am specifically unaware of any I may be breaking, I see no reason to offer you the opportunity to note one of them to my detriment. Nothing personal against you or nefarious in intent, trust me."

    Once they get in the door, they have free access to the entire house and you cannot deny them nor offer any sort of "I didn't let them in" as a defense against anything they DO observe.