Talk is cheap?
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 94 21:03:49 PST
Subject: Talk is cheap?
Forwarded-by: firstname.lastname@example.org@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: Marc Teitelbaum <marc@vangogh.CS.Berkeley.EDU>
The following article is from a leaflet that has been distributed by the
Libertarian Party in New Jersey. Written by an attorney, it deals with the
subject of talking to police or other government agents. This and many
other similar files can be found on the Patriot's Archive.
Fran Litterio email@example.com)
Don't Talk to Cops
BY ROBERT W. ZEUNER, MEMBER OF THE NEW YORK STATE BAR
"GOOD MORNING! My name is investigator Holmes. Do you mind answering
a few simple questions?" If you open your door one day and are greeted
with those words, stop and think! Whether it is the local police or
the FBI at your door, you have certain legal rights of which you ought
to be aware before you proceed any further.
In the first place, when the law enforcement authorities come to see
you, there are no "simple questions." Unless they are investigating a
traffic accident, you can be sure that they want information about
somebody. And that somebody may be you!
Rule Number one to remember when confronted by the authorities is that
there is no law require you to talk with the police, the FBI, or the
representative of any other investigative agency. Even the simplest
questions may be loaded and the seemingly harmless bits of information
which you volunteer may later become vital links in a chain of
circumstantial evidence against you or a friend.
Do not invite the investigator into your home! Such an invitation not
only gives him the opportunity to look around for clues to your
lifestyle, friends, reading material, etc., but also tends to prolong
the conversation. And the longer the conversation, the more chance
there is for a skilled investigator to find out what he wants to know.
Many times a police officer will ask you to accompany him to the police
station to answer a few questions. In that case, simply thank him for
the invitation and indicate that you are not disposed to accept it at
that time. Often the authorities simply want to photograph a person
for identification purposes, a procedure which is easily accomplished
by placing him in a private room with a two-way mirror at the station,
asking him a few innocent questions, and then releasing him.
If the investigator becomes angry at your failure to cooperate and
threatens you with arrest, stand firm. He cannot legally place you
under arrest or enter your home without a warrant signed by a judge.
If he indicates that he has such a warrant, ask to see it. A person
under arrest or located on premises to be searched, generally must be
shown a warrant if he requests it and must be given a chance to read
Without a warrant, an officer depends solely upon your helpfulness to
obtain the information he wants. So, unless you are quite sure of
yourself, don't be helpful.
Probably the wisest approach to take to a persistent investigator is
simply to say: "I'm quite busy now. If you have any questions that you
feel I can answer, I'd be happy to listen to them in my lawyer's
office. Goodbye!" Talk is cheap. But when that talk involves the law
enforcement authorities, it may cost you, or someone close to you,
P.S. This leaflet has been printed as a public service by individuals
concerned with the growing role of authoritarianism and police power
in our society. Please feel free to copy or republish.
© 1994 Peter Langston