“Wherever you have two lawyers, you have three opinions.” (Paraphrasing an old Jewish proverb.)
Law is a complicated subject. (The more cynical in the crowd would point out that law is written by lawyers, who certainly have a financial disincentive in making it easy to understand!) It’s complicated because it deals with human interaction, which is the only thing which is more complicated than the law itself.
Because of this complication it’s understandable why people would want to simplify it to the point that it’s easier to grasp. The problem is when this simplification is based on a lack of understanding of the law and an ignorance of the downstream consequences of any decision.
Take, for example, the subject of talking to the police after you’ve used lethal force against another human being. If your attacker is lifeless, you’ve committed a homicide (which is the taking of a human life), but (we hope) it’s justifiable: you needed to do so in order to save your life, or the life of an innocent.
That’s for the justice system to decide, however, because right now you’re standing in the middle of a crime scene!
The police officer responding to the call for help is going to find someone dying (or dead) and someone who put him in that condition. Many internet commandos (and not a few criminal justice attorneys) will insist that you not say anything to that officer; to clam up, as the phrase goes, and let your lawyer work things out.
Is that really a good idea?
On the one hand, that complicated legal system I talked about has many traps and sinkholes into which you can inadvertently fall. It seems that a wrong turn of phrase, or even a scientifically explainable difference in your statements at the scene and at a later deposition, can sink you in court. I can understand why people might insist that you keep your mouth shut until your lawyer arrives.
The problem is that this “I ain’t sayin’ nuttin’” response is full of problems of its own. While it’s easy to see how running your mouth could result in legal issues, it’s harder to understand why saying absolutely nothing can land you in similar (or worse) straits.
Marty Hayes, the President of the Armed Citizen’s Legal Defense Network, wrote an article a few years ago that deals with this very topic. Titled “Unintended Consequences of Silence”, it details why keeping your mouth shut might be the final nail in your legal coffin. He talks about the need for responding officers to secure evidence and witnesses, and even explains why the common business cards which exhort you to invoke your right to silence is a red flag which can land you in jail.
It’s a great article, and I recommend you read it, read it again for deeper understanding, and file it in your training log for future reference.
-=[ Grant Cunningham ]=-
- Posted by Grant Cunningham
- On January 19, 2015