Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Don't Talk to the Police

These two videos, a paired lecture to a Virginia law class, have been out there a while now, but there's a recent resurgence of interest in them that makes this a good time to post them here. The professor and the police officer offer compelling reasons why you should never talk to the police without first obtaining counsel, if you are the subject (or potenially will become the subject) of an investigation.

In the post's comments, there are the usual Internet dolts who take the advice literally -- that you should never, ever talk to the police, not even to report a crime or to provide a witness statement. Of course, they are dolts.

However, if you are involved, you should heed the videos' advice. Remember, the job of the cops is not to find and arrest the guilty. Their job is to identify likely candidates and close the case. From their point of view, it's the job of prosecutors to produce convictions. The police have a job to do, which they do day in and day out. It's work, often hard, dirty and demoralising, not a mission of sustaining constitutional principles.

And thanks to the Drug War, the deck is often stacked against you in very dangerous ways.

Suppose you're out with some folks and y'all smoke that joint in your pocket. You're in a safe part of town, but have to cross through a Blue CRUSH© monitored neighborhood to get to your destination, something not-uncommon in the patchwork that is Memphis. Cops catch you and pull you over. All you've got is the half-smoked joint, so you're clear, yes?

Maybe not. What if someone with you has crack in the bottom of their backpack, or a large bag of weed or you're with a musician who has her heroin Muse with her? If it's enough -- and how would you know? -- you cross into the land where you become an accomplice to a felony and will have your vehicle and laptop and all the cash on you seized. The presumption these days is that seizure can happen right fucking now and then you have to go through a long -- and usually unsuccessful -- process to get it back, even if you are innocent!

Cops have a motivation to seize, since they get to sell the seized items and keep that money. They have a motivation to close the case, since more cases are constantly piling up.

So, you see why getting a lawyer involved in your protection from the start is almost always a good idea.

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