The fact that the DA's office, which does not issue subpoenas, can mail to witnesses a document which says "SUBPOENA" is bold lettering and threatens arrest, is not on its face obviously and flagrantly illegal, is shocking to me.
In a just world everyone in the DA's office who had a hand in this and had the authority to stop it would be charged with falsifying court documents, witness tampering, or whatever other crime(s) were committed in doing this.
It's going to teach people that they might not have to comply with subpoenas because of all the fake ones. At the very least, people will be more inclined to wait until they have a lawyer before speaking with the police, which is the opposite of what they want.
But it's also likely to cause people to ignore real subpoenas, which will not only hurt them but also the court cases that they were supposed to testify at.
It's incredibly stupid.
It won't really harm the prosecutors and police. They'll still be able to bring the full force of the law against anyone who violates an actual subpoena. In fact, it allows them to successfully prosecute a few more people (those who didn't respond to a subpoena). And stories about THAT will just terrify people and make them more likely to comply with requests from police and prosecutors (because they don't know whether such requests have the force of law).
So the impact on society may be quite harmful, but the impact on PROSECUTORS is completely positive.
I imagine you might be able to avoid the consequences of ignoring a subpoena if your lawyer was very good, and hired the right experts to testify on your behalf, but I wouldn't bet my house on it. And legal fees can easily be as much or more than a mortgage. (IANAL)
A substantial portion of the reading for the class was from Language in the Legal Process. I'd highly recommend the book if you are at all interested in legal language from a linguistics standpoint.
The rest of what you said is exactly my point. Those people will get hurt because they now question some basic parts of our legal system. They might violate a subpoena that they mistakenly think is fake and end up on the wrong side of the law.
At the same time, those people are also hurting the court cases that they were supposed to attend.
Prosecutors who can't get their witnesses to come in to trial are going to have a bad time, even if they can later convict those people for violating a subpoena.
The only time it helps them is when people comply with the fake subpoena and talk when they didn't have to... And there's some serious question about the evidence that produces. It wouldn't be the first evidence thrown out because it didn't follow the correct protocols and/or violated civil rights.
And what happens when this all comes to light? Do they throw out every case where this appears to have happened, if it's found to be illegal?
To me, this is a complete negative for prosecutors in the long run.
Especially when the eventual new prosecutor wonders why they have to arrest everyone that is under subpoena to get them to respond.
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Misrepresenting a court or court officer may have criminal penalties as well.
I hope the LA state bar is reviewing (or will review) the attorneys that have done this.
Who watches the watchers?
We know now that we need to look for something like a notary stamp and judge signature on a subpeona, but we will never be as sophisticated in this domain as the DA's office, so they can probably easily trick us in other ways. The lesson I am inclined to take from this is to avoid interacting with a DA without a lawyer, similar to an investigator or a "curious" or "friendly" police officer.
However document fraud appears to be a little less black and white. Obviously I have no legal training and my interpretation is probably way off, but reading U.S. Code statute 1324c regarding document fraud, it appears to insinuate in subsection b that somehow law enforcement agencies are exempt.
Perhaps you can interpret this more effectively than I can.
Sometimes people call the police for help. Years before I met her, a friend of mine got out of control, and her family called the police (maybe her 'craziness' was because she was starting to go through menopause). The police couldn't do anything but take this woman downtown. Her daughter protested, "THIS IS NOT WHY WE CALLED YOU", but the officers were like, "whatevers". If all you've got is a hammer, everything is a nail.
Prosecutors' job is frequently to compound the wounds inflicted by the public servants. They do this with the gusto of a true-believer.
Came across an interesting somewhat contrarian argument recently in a New Yorker article reviewing a new book about mass incarceration in America:
So what makes for the madness of American incarceration? If it isn’t crazy drug laws or outrageous sentences or profit-seeking prison keepers, what is it? Pfaff has a simple explanation: it’s prosecutors. They are political creatures, who get political rewards for locking people up and almost unlimited power to do it.
And yet, they manage to not be such bastards in other parts of the Western World (EU, Nordic countries, etc).
In the US, those who aren't total bastards quit. Those that remain create a culture toxic to anyone with a conscience, and thereby perpetuate the vicious cycle. This is what makes it so hard to claw back from a corrupted government. Very few people have sufficient fortitude to endure corruption long enough to effect change from within.
It sounds like she was having some sort of mental health episode - I wonder if it would have helped had the daughter requested an ambulance rather than the police? Where I live, whenever you call 911 for an in-home emergency the police are tasked to arrive first to make sure the residence is safe and then the paramedics and fire crews come in after. You're right about the hammer and nail, but by framing it as a medical emergency you can hopefully ensure the hammer is holstered when they arrive as they approach the incident as secondary support who will only intervene if there is real danger.
The mental health system does a good job of making people's situations worse too. I think it's infinitely preferable to be locked up in jail than in a mental hospital.
> but by framing it as a medical emergency you can hopefully ensure the hammer is holstered when they arrive as they approach the incident as secondary support who will only intervene if there is real danger.
good point... When I called for the firefighters to come revive my girlfriend (benzodiazepines amplify opiates, fyi), the police were also dispatched. After the firefighters left, the police officers decided they didn't need to make things worse, and their crew disappeared into the night too.
This did not happen the second time I called 911. This could also have been the difference between big-city police and small-town police...
Sounds like her daughter might have had incorrect expectations for what it entails to call the police, though, unfortunately. The purpose and function of calling the police is generally to bring lawful force to bear against someone who has committed a crime. Any time you call the cops on somebody, it should be done with the expectation that they may be arrested and taken to jail, regardless of your intentions when making the call.
Police are not therapists and their job is not to resolve domestic disputes like a guidance counselor. While we might wish that this is what police would be, and while this is how excellent police might behave, in small-town settings, when you scale the system up to cities of millions, the function of police tends toward that of enforcing the law through use of force.
When you scale the police system up, it means the officers don't have a personal relationship with the people who call them, and they're going into a situation with no context. We can't fairly expect them to pass judgment on the spot about how a domestic dispute should be resolved when there's ambiguity and no law has obviously been broken - the courts are for handling nuanced, contextual situations like that where facts need to be determined, and fairness weighed. Anything less deprives one party of their rights.
Police also need to prioritize their time, because big cities are filled with constant real crime like theft, most of which is already never investigated due to lack of resources. In my mind, actual thefts (that deprive people of property and rights) are a substantially higher priority than resolving social disputes. Any time a police spends on social disputes is time taken away from fighting meaningful crimes that have obvious victims.
So from my perspective one should generally not expect the police to intervene for anything less than a law obviously being broken.
With this perspective in mind, police are a pretty "binary function". You call them because someone has broken the law and you need to bring society's force to bear against them, typically by giving them e.g. a lawful order to leave the premises of property you own, or by arresting them and taking them to jail. They are not "for" any other purpose. This is of course is not a defense of police taking people to jail for no reason in situations where they are called inappropriately, but I'm saying this to share my life experience in the hopes that it will set useful expectations for others: generally don't call police on someone unless you're willing to send them to jail.
In your location, if urgent intervention was required to help a relative in a situation like the one outlined in the grandparent post, what agency would be the best one to contact?
Over here (England and Wales) if someone was an immediate danger to themselves or others, I'd call 999 and be put through to the Police operator and explain.
If the person I was calling regarding wasn't an immediate danger, in theory I'd ring 111, but in practice I'd ring Mind because I've had extremely negative experiences with NHS Direct.
> UK: policing is a bit different here
If they didn't have the resources required to ensure someone would care and I thought it was something the person could get through, I'd recommend sedatives and try to find an appropriate charity.
The only time I'd ever call the police where I live now is if the situation were already life-or-death. There are places with departments where the cops aren't such wildcards, but I don't live in one of those, and every time I've been involved in a situation where cops were introduced into it, at best they were useless.
Folks are often jailed on public disturbance and other charges instead of being taken to a facility - many facilities don't have enough space either.
Your views do not match my experience in the Netherlands at all. My largest irritation regarding Dutch police is that they seem incapable of helping with bike thefts (even though all bikes have a mandatory unique ID), and sometimes they give you a ticket for carefully biking over pedestrian ways (excellent shortcuts) or for biking without a light.
However, I do think your post contributed to the discussion because the advice seems coherent and accurate for U.S. citizens and anyone planning on visiting there.
If I want to have my balls fondled by men in uniforms I can just go to Craigslist. At least then I'll have a safeword.
Man, I really miss the 80's right now.
Literally 1/2 times I've flown I've had my balls touched. I wish I was kidding.
Correct that to: any time you call the cops on somebody, it should be done with the expectation that someone may die, not necessarily the person you are calling the cops on. Maybe the situation is bad enough that that's already a possibility, in which case calling the cops might be better than the alternative. But when it's not? Please don't call the cops.
How about if you get into a car crash but nobody's dying immediately, don't call the police?
There are lots of situations not serious enough to merit getting someone killed where I'd call the police. I don't think that's crazy. I'm sure it some areas the police are terrible enough that this would be unwise, but those areas are the exception, not the rule.
It's not likely to happen, but you're also not likely to be murdered in a traffic stop. Yet, it happens.
I believe you are legally obligated to contact the police in the event of a serious accident.
You're right that it's often a legal requirement to contact the police after a crash. But if "someone may die" then that seems like a good reason to break the law.
I can also attest by direct experience that the cool attitude they show on camera is the same one they have when nobody's recording.
In another show, we see a Spanish policeman as an observer in Miami and making interesting comments on the differences, including positive ones, compared to Spain.
This whole police problem in the US looks to me like a few bad people that makes all cops look bad. Add to that, a biased hiring practice and coverup / protecting wrongdoers, and you get the situation you have in the US today where people don't trust the Police. It then becomes a worse and worse as the rift between civilians and police grows bigger.
I think the problem is really in management, where everything becomes political. No one wants to sound like they are soft on crime, so they all make speeches of fighting crime, war on drugs, etc. The wording says it all: "Fight Crime" and "War on drugs" are both very powerful messages, meaning more arms, more violence and not a peaceful solution. Add to this, the short time-spans of some of the turns that these people have in office, its no wonder that no one is trying to solve anything. It would take too long to see results, and they would not be in office or at least fear that they would not be in office. So, short turn patches get applied with a lot of force.
I don't know a solution, but at least we should look at removing as much of the political and financial pressures from police departments, let them hire better people (and yes they might leave after a few years, but that's just how things are now). We also need a cleaner and more transparent system to deal with wrongdoing, whatever happened to Internal Affairs? Are they still a thing? Have they lost power or have the political hands gotten involved there as well?
About the USA, it's very difficult to judge. I do believe that centralized services are better in Spain-sized countries, not sure in something so big as the USA. Still, voting judges and local police seems so strange!
It's obviously in Spanish. Some of the situation are sad, but in others there is a touch of comedy. The most typical situation is when the perp lies blatantly about what we're seeing he's done.
I can't remember the title of the Miami police one, sorry.
You do know that "domestic dispute" isn't just an argument and is usually a euphemism for assault/battery, right?
Some form of social service intervention for the whole family would be far better than arresting one person.
After all, somebody abusing someone else likely doesn't handle stress and anger appropriately: nobody's life gets easier and more manageable after being arrested.
So longer prison sentences for domestic abusers then? Put them away long enough so the other party is forced to start their own life and no longer be in a situation where they are dependent on the abuser and thus unable to leave.
Long prison sentences might help a few cases, but not most, because most won't be convicted in the first place.
It's important to help the victim directly, not just focus on removing the perpetrator, because the latter is likely never to happen.
Note also that because the situation is often so unclear to the police, sometimes both people involved to be arrested, or the victim is arrested and the perpetrator goes free. The latter is especially common when the victim is male.
So no, police arriving and arresting who they think is the attacker isn't necessarily desirable.
And by that I mean if "don't call police on someone unless you're willing to send them to jail" is the accepted and defendable function of police in the US, you should be able to have a nationwide public information campaign with that exact line on it. Because it seems not everyone got the memo.
That has to be pretty illegal, right?
What they did here violates the judicial process as you mentioned in a very horrible way.
- 3 felonies a day (so 100% prosecutorial discretion)
- NSA etc. mean they can access those 3 felonies if they want to, quite a bit into the past
- 95% plea bargain rate (more of same)
- prosecutors behave criminally
In the case of this Louisiana Prosecutor, it seems like perhaps the courts are so overwhelmed they can't even get stacks of pre-signed subpoenas so they write their own. And the article states that when said Prosecutor has been called on it, a Judge issues a real subpoena. So yeah, meh.
This is exactly the sort of thing you should always fight against because it is bound to lead to abuses, if the judicial system can't keep up then things should grind to a halt, rather than proceed unchecked.
You see this pattern all over the place. Bosses want to break the rules but don't want to get in trouble for it. The solution is easy: give the workers goals that are impossible to meet without breaking the rules, while simultaneously telling them how important it is to follow the rules. Voila, your workers break the rules on their own initiative, and you're not culpable. Those who refuse to do so can be fired, totally legally, for not meeting their goals.
For example, you want your workers to put in a lot of overtime but you don't want to pay for it. If you tell them to do that, it would be illegal! So instead, you tell them that they need to produce this much output per week, and also tell them that if they clock in more than 40 hours per week they'll be fired. They'll start working off the clock on their own, and since they'll be fired if you find out about it, you'll remain safely ignorant!
It's no surprise that the same sort of thing would happen in prosecutors' offices. If they don't put away enough criminals, they'll be out of a job. They'll break the rules to do so, and keep it quiet so they don't get fired for that. And it's all according to plan, since the people in charge don't really like how the rules protect criminals.
It was that or break the rules. And a loyal Arstotzkan citizen would never do that.
Real-life systems are set up to encourage people to break the rules all the time. Consider it a dark pattern of governance.
"We want to make the process both for victims and witnesses as user-friendly as possible, but we are not going to allow them to determine the future of the case."
It sounds a lot like "We're big believers in using evidence and witnesses to prosecute cases, but we're not about to let any of that deter a successful prosecution where one is warranted"
I'm sure they don't mean it that way, right?
What's not mentioned is the possibility of a violation of section 242 under title 18 of the Federal code (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/242). For practical purposes, that's a hell of a stretch, I admit. But it really shouldn't be. My reasoning is that the government here is forcing people to do something that it doesn't have the authority to force them to do, that may very well be a violation of this law. They are restricting your freedoms without the authority under law to do that. The question becomes whether or not the restriction of freedom(s) from these fake subpoenas counts as a violation of the "rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States". And I don't know the answer with certainty. A constitutional lawyer would have to weigh in on that. I imagine it would, though, because these people are effectively being forced to show up somewhere when they had no intention of doing so with people they never wanted to meet and forcing them to speak by answering questions they did not want to answer. That sounds like a first amendment violation to me.
There are very few countries where that idea is as much a force as it is in the US–it's theoretically possible, but courts often shy away from applying it.
I think it's a testament to the integrity of the US court system that they routinely let people off the hook, even when it is proven that they committed a serious crime. They are serving a higher goal, but they do so in the face of stiff public opposition ("The rapist got away on a technicality").
The public defenders have hundreds of clients a year and are often only able to provide each client with a day or so of attention.
If you are poor and accused of a crime odds are you are going to be found guilty. If you are rich and accused of a crime, odds are you have a good attorney who has the resources and connections to find that "technicality"
Here in NL it is very much in force and has led to some spectacular reversals in court. To the point where the police is now extra careful on how they get their evidence.
(I'm joking -- right up until the point where I am not)
I'm not even sure how one would verify that a subpoena is valid.
I suppose the same goes for verifying badge numbers for police, fire marshalls, city inspectors, etc.
Everything runs on written signed letters and the post.
Interesting fact, Barristers used to get paid by the inch of paper in their brief, so when you read old law and its verbose as fk. you just know someone was on the clock running up the hours.
If you have relevant insight, why is that? Digitization makes most information-oriented work easier and it stands to reason this would be true for law as well.
Sure they email but anything that may be brought o bear needs ink on it. They don't see things through a prism of 'making the system better'
I had a mate in NSW (Australia) who got a DUI, He had too show up to court for it, so he decided to turn up himself because he didn't have the cash for a solicitor and he planned to throw himself at the mercy of the court.
It didn't work out so well, he got absolutely spanked for not having legal representation. And i think that was wrong, Sure throw the book at him for being and idiot and driving while pissed but 'showing the court disrespect' by representing himself is crazy.
When you consider that laws of the people are for the people. it drives me mad to see decisions go to a higher authority to be considered and decided. Laws are vague but they don't have to be. our legislators really fall down when they don't explicitly define in parliment a use case of the law side by side with it inception.
This might be the only option unless this gets enough national attention to get the DA fired.
You need a Duke Lacrosse situation before anything would happen.
 Serious overreach coupled directed at camera-friendly victims with the resources to hire good, media-savvy attorneys.
This may in part be a few bad apples, but it also sounds like that includes the top of the pile.
By the way, it's very easy to tell which subpoena actually requires compliance. It'll be the only one with a judge's name, signature, and (hopefully) a court seal on it. Anything lacking a judge's signature could theoretically be used as toilet paper. Ask anyone working at a big corporation's legal department. They will be quite familiar with these self-generated "administrative subpoenas." I'm sure Apple and Facebook throw these out by the dozens every month from various prosecutors and law enforcement entities and tell them to come back with a judicially issued version.
"Orleans Parish prosecutors are using fake subpoenas to pressure witnesses to talk to them"
Only in america.
> Their job is not to resolve domestic disputes
> Any time you call the cops on somebody, it should be done with the expectation that they may be arrested and taken to jail
Just because the American police force is awful and only really good at escalating situations doesn't mean that that's the best they can do.
The polices job is "Protect and Serve", not "Escalate and Worsen", if that requires temporarily filling the role of emergency counselor so be it.
For example every dutch police car carries a couple teddy bears they can hand out to children in traumatic situations such as car crashes. Sure you can argue that it isn't the polices job to soothe children, but you'll be very glad that they still do when it's your kid hurt.
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14245012 and marked it off-topic.
> "Protect and Serve"
Everyone thinks that the police's job is their motto. It was some strategic messaging, but they came up with that. Police weren't created to protect and serve. Going back to the foundations of the country's policing strategy, police exist to maintain order. That's why they arrest protesters, shoot unarmed guys who are noncompliant, arrest people for selling cigarette singles. That subtle shift in how we perseve their job explains vertically all of their behavior as of late.
Very un-Peelian policing. Could you give more background on how and when the foundations of US policing strategy were laid, because it seems to be very fragmentary and local?
It's well worth a listen, the entire series is great as well
For those down voting, here are the stats from Australia, courtesy Wikipedia:
"Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that during the 2009/10 year police took action against 375,259 people, up by 4.8 percent from 2008/09 figures."
So, that's 375k "actions". Even if you assume that a lot of those won't end in arrest, that's still a lot of arresting.
Yes. Yes it is.
> The advice is still sound in any part of the world: don't call the cops if you don't want someone to get arrested.
The advice very much isn't sound in any part of the world, and I suggest you go live in a place with a friendly police force for a while.
Your statistics prove nothing. You're taking a random country and asserting that the statistics for that country are true everywhere. Furthermore without arrest statistics it's a rather hollow argument.
Not saying that America is that bad, but it bugs me when people explicitly state that only America has a problem with policing. It's pretty widespread.
New York City (#1) has 8.5 million people at a density of 27,012 people per square mile. In other words, NYC has over half of the population of all of The Netherlands and roughly 20 times the average density. I don't think you should assume that anything about policing strategy in The Netherlands can be applied to these fairly radically different environments.
Edit: I can't reply to the comment below this about education spending. Let's look at the data:
"Expenditure on education as % of total government expenditure (%)"
> Netherlands 12.1%
> United States 13.3%
Amsterdam has 12.7k people per sq mi. Not NY-dense, but certainly more dense than San Jose.
I am sure that Dutch police get longer and higher education than their US colleagues, on average. But more importantly, I think the culture in the police here is completely different, they attract a different type of character. In the US, using the "soft" approach is not popular with politicians and voters, so the police seems to have developed into an "army-light", attracting mostly "tough guys" who like the use of force.
Administrative subpoena. This is common practice all over the country. Funny that they quote a former NYC prosecutor who seemingly forgot that the NYC district attorney offices issue self-generated pieces of paper saying "subpoena" on them, too. Must have slipped his mind.
The only problematic part of this particular DA's use of these is the printing of the legal threat. If a judge doesn't issue and sign a subpoena, it's legally toothless. Claiming otherwise is a lie.
But just printing the word "subpoena" on a piece of paper that isn't signed by a judge doesn't make it "fake," as the article so melodramatically declares.
HN may be most familiar with the administrative subpoena in the form of the National Security Letter, and such subpoenas have been fought in court.
It's not great, to be clear. We should have all subpoenas / warrants require individual advance approval by a judge. But there's a big difference between a type of subpoena authorized by the legislature, used by the executive, and subject to review from the judiciary (and subject to the entire law being ruled unconstitutional, in theory), and the executive inventing the idea of "administrative subpoena" on their own.
I'm not saying I approve of the concept, but this is common practice, unlike what many posters in this thread want to tell themselves.
Your inability to distinguish between a document signed by a judge and one that is not doesn't automatically imply that it is fraudulent.
The difference is whether courts are going to back the document in question.