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Just Shut Up; You Don't have to Talk, so Don't!

Again, I have several new clients approaching me with charges against them that could not have been established without their shooting off their mouths!

What seems to be the problem with shutting up?  A policeman is a stranger to you.  If you would not blab to a stranger who approaches you on the street and asks where you are going, where are you coming from, how much have you had to drink, do you own any guns, do you know Fred, what did you just shift from one pocket to another, do you have any drugs, do you have anything I should know about, etc., then don't blab it to a cop.  I assume you would tell a snoopy stranger to pound sand on those inquiries; have the same attitude toward an inquisitive cop, albeit more politely.

The police are asking not because they care about you, but because they care about themselves, their sergeants, their promotions, their “high fives” from fellow cops. They want to put together a convincing case; they don't want to be your pal or loyal confidant.

A couple of people have recently told me “But I thought I have to answer them.”  Why? What makes you think that?  The government is never entitled to have responses from you [other than sometimes your name and address], other than on tax forms, or when you are on the stand in court and ordered to speak.  You never have to tell any cop on the street anything, other than name and address IF you are being arrested.  So don't tell them more.

Do you have a suicide wish?  That's what it would appear, when you self-immolate yourself with inflammatory gushes from your diarrheic mouth [pardon the mixed metaphor].

No, I'm not talking about Miranda rights [which are triggered only upon arrest or similar liberty invasion], I am talking about your relationship, as a free person, with your government, which is never entitled to obtaining evidence from you.  You are entitled to have them make out cases against you without your help.  Shut up!  Politely.

Often, way too often, people come into my office and expect me to erase the evidentiary effects of their unguarded statements, and sometimes it is possible, but most of the time it is not.  You have a duty to protect yourself, in the first instance, and then you may employ lawyers to protect you in the second instance.  But don't expect lawyers to be clean-up fixers when you don't have the sense to shut up.

95% or more of criminal cases are based on utterances from the mouths of the suspects.  Why?  Shut up.  The police are not your friends; they are only their own friends. Your mouth can put you in jail; your silence can release you.

Michael Kennedy

Admitted to Bar, State of California, 1981 Education: Widener University, Chester, Pennsylvania (B.A., 1970) Southwestern University School of Law, Los Angeles, California (J.D., Scale, 1981) Harvard Law School, Program of Instruction for Lawyers, Cambridge, 1987


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