It’s a New America: don’t talk to the police

by Fabius Maximus 

Summary: It’s a New America, with new rules. High among them is that one should never be questioned by the police without an attorney. Mueller’s RussiaGate investigation proved this, as even Washington insiders that ignored this rule paid dearly for it. Here are the many reasons to be wary of the police.

Police Line: Do Not Cross
ID 15136252 © Carlballou – Dreamstime.

In the great TV series Columbo (1968-1977), murderers frame others for their crimes. Often implausibly but with ample evidence. They assume that the police will go for an easy conviction. But Detective-Lieutenant Columbo of the LAPD ignores the easy arrest and seeks out the guilty. That is fun fiction. In real America, police are happy to find a patsy for a crime – with as little thought and effort as possible. The fantastic cost of a trial and the horrific penalties encourage plea bargains, irrespective of one’s guilt (95% of convictions result from plea bargains).

Interrogations are a powerful weapon of police. Amazingly, people do talk to the police without an attorney. Even intelligent insiders.

So let’s review this essential information for survival in our New America. What should you do when questioned by the police? You have identified yourself, and now the questions begin. Respond as police do when questioned by the police, with Rule One.

Modern methods don’t use force. They work better than force.

Knock on any door (1949)
From Knock On Any Door (1949). Available at Amazon.

Fear police interrogations

Five of the seven convictions of Mueller’s RussiaGate probe resulted largely from stupidity plus hubris. This includes, incredibly, General Flynn – a senior insider of the Deep State. They were foolish and spoke to law enforcement agents without an attorney’s guidance. They were convicted of making false statements to Federal agents. Every year thousands of people make the same mistake. Like Flynn, they believed police assurances that no attorney was needed.

One of the few things police procedural shows on TV get right: people do confess during interrogations. People’s confidence that their superior will and intelligence will defeat non-violent questioning by police often falls before the advantages of police: the power of training, experience, and techniques. This is one of the major reasons not to talk to police without an attorney.

Police produce confessions using the  Reid interrogation method. It also produces a high rate of false confessions. For more about the Reid method, see this essay – and (even better) this by the Innocence Project with evidence from the streets.

Another reason to fear police interrogations: police will decide your guilt using clues from subtle body language. Countless police magazines and training courses teach these methods (e.g., here). Unfortunately, a massive body of research shows that none of these work reliably. To learn why see this mild but exhaustive article in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. Often police will decide your guilt – stop the investigation and focus on nailing you – based on methods that are no better than a coin toss.

Don’t talk without an attorney present

Never talk until you have an attorney, the best you can afford. If you must depend on public defenders, I recommend prayer (explanation here; see the Innocence Project for horror stories). For some good advice about dealing with police, see this presentation by James Duane (professor at Regent Law School and former defense attorney).

For more advice see Tips for preventing conflicts with the police.

We’re vulnerable because we’re all criminals

If the police dig enough they have good odds of finding that you are a criminal, violating some of the countless laws and regulations – Federal, State, and local – that govern our lives. Many of these have draconian penalties because we love politicians who are “tough on crime”. Even if they do not prosecute, they can release a lurid version of your history and alleged crimes to the press to ruin your life. Nobody will listen to your defense. You have little hope of suing for defamation.

Here’s a look at the rate of new laws and regulations from the Federal government: “Counting Regulations: An Overview of Rulemaking, Types of Federal Regulations, and Pages in the Federal Register” by Maeve P. Carey of the Congressional Research Service, 1 May 2013. Excerpt…

“… the number of final rules published each year is generally in the range of 2,500 – 4,500 …The Federal Register provides documentation of the government’s regulatory and other actions, and some scholars, commentators, and public officials have used the total number of Federal Register pages each year as a measure for the total amount of regulatory activity.”

CRS Rules Graph

See these articles for more information about the million-regulation New America.

  1. Rough justice in America” in The Economist of 22 July 2010 – “Too many laws, too many prisoners. Never in the civilised world have so many been locked up for so little”.
  2. One nation, under too many laws” by Philip K. Howard in the Washington Post, 12 December 2010.
  3. Way Too Many Criminal Laws, Lawyers Tell Congress” at the blog of the Legal Times, 14 June 2013.

In the Federalist Papers #62, James Madison warned us about a government that has too many laws. Now his fears have come true.

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?“

How the police play the game

Interrogations can take place anywhere, without telling you. For example, see “Pretext Phone Calls in Sexual Assault Investigations” by Luke Williams.

“A pretext phone call is a tool used by police officers in the early stages of investigation, especially in sexual assault investigations. It is a tape recorded phone call between the victim and the suspect made by the victim or a close friend of the victim. The phone calls will be made under the supervision of police officers…the victim will be given direction by the officers on the time of day or night to call the suspect, what type of questions to ask the suspect, and what to prepare for.

“The victim will be told to ask questions in certain ways that are more likely to solicit an incriminating response instead of just going full speed ahead with the ‘Why did you rape me?’ question, which, for good reason, will cause the suspect to shut down or become defensive stating they did no such thing. An example of a question a victim might told to ask is ‘Why did you have sex with me after I pushed you way and told you to stop?’”

About that Fifth Amendment gig

Citizens’ defenses against the State are seldom as robust as they seem. The Fifth Amendment nicely illustrates that, as explained in “The Right to Remain Silent: A New Answer to an Old Question” by James J. Duane (Law prof at Regent U) in Criminal Justice, 2010.

“{Y}our silence, even in the face of police questioning, is admissible against you at a criminal trial if the police can prove (or are at least willing to claim) that they never read your rights to you before you communicated your insistence on remaining silent. Moreover, regardless of whether your silence was arguably induced by the fact that you were read your Miranda rights by the police, your assertion of the Fifth Amendment privilege is admissible and can always be used against you in any civil action or proceeding.

“And of course there are many civil trials (and criminal trials, as long as you are not the accused) at which you may be compelled, in the discretion of the court, to take the witness stand and assert the Fifth Amendment privilege in the presence of the jury, which will then be invited to draw an adverse inference from that refusal.

“So there are a number of fairly common situations in which your invocation of the Fifth Amendment privilege, either before or during a trial, may be used against you and revealed to the jurors, who will be allowed to decide what sort of adverse inference, if any, to draw from that decision. It therefore may make a great difference just what witnesses say and how they explain themselves when they refuse to answer a question on the basis of that privilege.

“What a Client Should Say When Taking the Fifth …”

A warning from the past

A common rebuttal to warnings about social trends is that they are are not new. This is a daft reply, but an effective means to minimize the cognitive dissonance from acknowledging unpleasant truths.

Almost nothing is new in history. New America is a cancerous growth of traits deeply rooted in American history. Such as our law enforcement agencies’ long history of defending us from minor threats, from imaginary threats – and especially from reformers who threaten powerful special interests. Such as union organizers, civil rights activists, peace movements, satanic cults, communists (in the 1960s half of the Party were FBI), fake child abuse discovered through recovered memories, and now government-manufactured terrorist threats. Try not to become collateral damage in the next crusade.