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I spent 22 years in prison for a crime I didn’t commit (reddit.com)
506 points by rahuldottech 52 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 347 comments

Something I think about is why is the American Justice system designed the way it is. Like a commenter said below it is a legal game. Why?

These are peoples lives, why is this system gamified? Why is it not a truth-seeking system? I am probably naive and don't see the full picture of all of this but it is confusing to me. The United States is known to be the country with the highest number of its citizens in prison. With a burdened legal system and little funding, why does this continue to be so? I find the barrier of entry to prison in the US very low compared to other countries I have lived in and visited. What are the advantages of this? I find this all very absurd.

The theory is two sides produce the absolute most convincing argument they can, and an independent arbiter - the jury - decides between the two arguments. As both sides can freely choose their representatives, they can change if their guy isn't doing a good job. And as the jury has heard the strongest possible arguments, they've heard all the information the two sides believe they need.

If you're accused of being gay in 1880, a randomly selected truth-seeking arbiter might be very anti-gay as that was the median opinion in society at the time - or even subject to political pressure. Only by having free choice of who represents you can you get someone who isn't biased against you.

Of course, that's only the theory. How well it works in practice, particularly with under-funded public defenders, is a different matter!

The police is supposed to be a neutral party in this system, I believe a lot of these failures stem from the police failing this role.

> The theory is two sides produce the absolute most convincing argument they can

It's clearly not the absolute most convincing argument, seeing as the US legal system has rules regarding the admissibility of evidence, which may disqualify certain arguments.

It's like free market capitalism applied to the legal system.

There are so many holes in this theory it is no wonder it doesn't work at all in practise

Good news then, we use competing systems to determine a solution in several facets of society (e.g. politics at every level, almost everything related to countries, governance in the public and private sectors). The minute someone comes up with a better system with less "holes" it will be quite the human revolution.

There are different systems in use today. In many other countries, judges/prosecutors are charged with much more of a "figure out the true facts of what happened; do justice" role than they are in the US system.


Is there evidence to suggest that those systems are more effective at finding the truth, or delivering justice?

That is a subjective question. I would argue things like paying for lawyers, paying your court fees even if you win (US system), and bail, cannot be an effective way to achieve true justice because they are all biased towards the rich.

Surely you don't think there is no better or even alternative system to the trainwreck that is the US justice system? I'm not arguing to get rid of courts i'm arguing to change the way they are run. I don't see how this needs to be a revolutionary idea.

What makes you characterize the US justice system as a "trainwreck?" Also, which existing justice system would you point to as a better example?

It strikes me that the problem isn't the gamification so much as the fact that it's a case-closing system. The primary motivation of the prosecution isn't to solve cases, it's to close cases as quickly as possible by finding someone to pin the blame on and lock up. One piece of evidence totally exonerates the defendant but they'll be otherwise easy to convince a jury to lock up? Suppress the evidence and move on.

We need to find a way to change the motivation of the prosecution such that they want to actually solve these cases, regardless of how long it takes.

"Suppress the evidence and move on."

How about automatic criminal charge for withholding the evidence?

Agreed. Additionally, open&unsolved cases shouldn't be a metric that's considered a ding against prosecutors/police. Open & unsolved is far better than closed with an innocent person behind bars.

A prosecutor that withholds evidence in a felony proceeding could be guilty of a felony in most states, and in nearly all states would be suspended or disbarred even in states where withholding evidence is not a crime.

(In nearly all US jurisdictions where it is a crime, it matters whether the withheld evidence would have affected the outcome of the trial (i.e., is "material") as it is generally not a crime to withhold non-material evidence.)

Who would prosecute it? The prosecutors are the ones committing the crimes here.

Different prosecutors? One possibility would be to make prosecutorial misconduct at the state level a federal crime.

But those different prosecutors would also be doing this kind of misconduct. This is a systematic issue. They would not be able to sustain the same rate of conviction if they acted ethically.

Is that really true? I definitely have the (subjective, not backed by research or real familiarity) impression that Federal prosecutors hold themselves to a much higher standard than most state/county DAs.

Regardless, you're right and it can't be prosecutors all the way down. Ultimately if you're wronged by the Federal government you probably have to accept some kind of civil liability. Granted the US government isn't great at doing that either, but I think that's a different, largely unrelated problem.

> I find this all very absurd.

I do too, and many citizens of the Soviet Union thought of that the same with "guilty no matter what" mentality dominating Union's legal system.

Unlike in USSR, American judges don't join their past clients in the gulag if they disagree with prosecutors. Why do they do it then?

> Unlike in USSR, American judges don't join their past clients in the gulag if they disagree with prosecutors. Why do they do it then?

Judges are meant to just be referees. Even if a judge thinks you're innocent and knows a defence you could use, they can't suggest you use it; they have to wait for your lawyer to bring it up.

Now yes, in theory, if you had an open-minded, honest, unbiased judge patiently investigate all the facts and make a decision, it would be more fair than having a highly-trained-and-motivated prosecutor "playing the legal game" to score political points against an overworked and underfunded public defender. But how can you be sure you only appoint open-minded, honest, unbiased judges?

Having the opportunity to state your own case in front of a selection of 12 random people has both a lower maximum but also a much higher minimum expected value.

Being 'tough on crime' is a surefire way to get re-elected.

Which raises a follow-up question: Why on Earth do Americans elect judges and prosecutors?

It's an attempt to avoid cronyism or an inherited/bequeathed type of situation. If the public doesn't like how the judge/prosecutor or any gov't position is working out, then they get the chance to replace them. For the people, by the people.

Lobbying/special interest has pretty much ruined that though.

Not all judges are elected, some are appointed. Same with prosecutors, it’s usually only the top one that’s elected.

It gives you an opportunity to select the type of community you want to live in. Some elections are partisan and some non-partisan. If you’re in an liberal county you have the option to select a liberal candidate and vice versa. I doubt a very liberal or conservative community would want to be stuck with someone with opposing views.

The point that a partisan attitude matters in a legal system is horrific to me. Laws should not be interpreted in personal bias, especially not by a, supposedly, impartial arbiter.

While true that almost anyone will have some bias, it should (in my view) never be considered in the entirety of the system let alone as a starting point for the highest judge.

> I doubt a very liberal or conservative community would want to be stuck with someone with opposing views.

A conservative with a liberal judge would want the judge to be impartial to their view on politics.

Would you rather the laws and justice be determined by Religious views? Like they are in ultra-conservative Middle East or Europe in the not too distant past? Or determined by a monarch with absolute authority?

You’re being naive if you think politics don’t shape laws or justice.

What makes you think you'd be allowed to elect your judges in a country with a monarch with absolute authority or that you would be allowed to elect a gay judge in a ultra-conservative country?

As for politics in justice, I'd like to think serious questions would be asked in my country if it came to light judges let their political believes affect their decisions.

Wouldn't that happen just as much with appointed judges? You vote for a liberal/conservative councillor or mayor or state rep or governor, they appoint a judge who has suitable views, but who may not be charismatic enough to win an election.

I wish I knew enough about appointments to provide an insightful comment.

> It [elections] gives you an opportunity to select the type of community you want to live in.

I'm curious: how does that work out in practice? Do folks in the USA typically live in the type of communities they'd like to live in?

I’d like to think so but it’s a gradual shift. The county I live and grew up in was very conservative 10+ years ago, lately it’s been more liberal (but not as liberal at the state level). If you would’ve told me in the early 2000s the county would vote Democrat in the 2016 elections I wouldn’t have believed you.

People have told me they want to move out of my county because it’s becoming too liberal, whether they actually do it or not is up for debate. Mostly cranky old people, family included.

The West has historically been a tough of crime (old Wild West) place. Here’s an interesting Sheriff from Phoenix, Arizona. Joe Arpaio[1]. His tough on crime and immigration stance that made his career was also his down fall.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Arpaio

A sheriff/judge/prosecutor who has to enough of what the local populace wants to see to get reelected may very well serve the interest of justice better than a sheriff/judge/prosecutor who is beholden to organizational politics and political politics of the bureaucracy above them. This is very important in rural counties in states that are controlled by a couple urban areas and urban counties in states where more rural politics dominate state government because it allows them to have outcomes that are more just as the inhabitants of the county see it, even if they may seem less just from the perspective of the hypothetical average person in the state. Direct election of these officials basically provides a minority protection for counties that are in the minority in their state. Make no mistake, both local voters and state bureaucracy are more than capable of incentivizing non-just outcomes but putting that power with the local voters is more consistent with American values which generally prefer to have the most local level of government that can do something be the level of government that does the thing.

TL;DR if you take the view that justice is relative to the wishes of the local community then having these officials elected by the local community makes perfect sense.

Exactly. And they also elect sheriffs.

Electing judges was considered a reform. It also varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Obviously Supreme Court justices are appointed.

The appointment of supreme court justices in the United States looks to outsiders as though political operators do their best to stack the deck in their favor in case they ever need a get-out-of-jail-free card.

I don't think it's that — it's that the Supreme Court has become the unchallengeable super-legislature, and thus both sides of any issue desperately want to get their guys onto the court, so that they can get the laws they wish to pass.

It's a weird sort of legislature, though. It doesn't have the ability to originate laws itself: third parties have to propose laws to it. And those proposals have to be in the form of arguments that the actual laws passed by the legislative branch are unconstitutional. Once a party has managed to phrase his proposed law in that fashion, though, the Supreme Court is practically capable of passing any law, repealing any law, revoking any provision of the Constitution and amending the Constitution in any way it wants.

It's an odd system.

That didn't use to be the case. In the last few years the supreme court appointment system has become way more political than it ever used to be. I'd argue it means that there is becoming more and more disagreement in the general public on what laws even mean. This causes politics to be inserted into the legal system because the "meaning of laws" itself has become politicized. Why this change has happened is a good question.

I can see that, sure. Which is better, electing or appointing judges? It doesn't seem clear cut to me that there is a good answer with those options.

As an aside, in the US, in some jurisdictions including federal, being a lawyer isn't a requirement for judgeship.


Consider that “lawmakers” are almost entirely drawn from the ranks of lawyers, of course they have constructed a system that benefits their own kind.

> These are peoples lives, why is this system gamified? Why is it not a truth-seeking system?

How do you imagine a truth-seeking system would be different?

English Law (which is where the American system came from) is ingenious. It is the crown jewel of liberalism.

> These are peoples lives, why is this system gamified? Why is it not a truth-seeking system?

Which systems aren't "gamified"? Please point me to a "truth seeking system" that exists out in the world. Truth-seeking systems are an ideal.

The lawyer in this AMA, Sean O’Brien, argues for increasing the funding for public defenders. That's a smart idea. Lamenting the supposed awfulness of the system is lazy and useless.

In England however where we still have English Law very few innocent people get sent to jail. If anything the system is flawed the other way in that quite a lot of guilty people get let off. I remain puzzled why the US is as it is.

Is there an actual study on the rates of mistaken guilty verdicts on a country by country basis?


Could you please stop posting unsubstantive comments to Hacker News? We're trying for a bit better than internet default here.

The sad thing to me is that there are hundreds upon hundreds of such cases, with apparently a racial component to it as well [1].

As the author and jacquesm in this thread touched on [2]:

> I don't think my case was directly race related. I do believe that failed public defender systems across the country has a race related component. Most people who need a public defender are either black or poor or both.

1. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/07/us/wrongful-convictions-r...

2. https://old.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/e63xwa/i_spent_22_yea...

I find it difficult to imagine a sufficiently wealthy black person would struggle to find a lawyer willing to represent him, and be forced to fall back onto public defenders.

Most people who need a public defender are poor, and a large portion of the poor population is black.

I can't fathom Missouri getting away with imprisoning someone for 22 years and not paying him any compensation. An entire life down the drain due to incompetence.


> Watson was correct all along: He was a U.S. citizen. After he was released, he filed a complaint. Last year, a district judge in New York awarded him $82,500 in damages, citing "regrettable failures of the government."

> On Monday, an appeals court ruled that Watson, now 32, is not eligible for any of that money — because while his case is "disturbing," the statute of limitations actually expired while he was still in ICE custody without a lawyer.

We have a bizarre system.

Bizarre doesn't seem like the right word here. Evil, maybe.

> The two-year statute of limitations on his "false imprisonment" started ticking when Watson first went before a judge, the majority said. That meant it expired while he was still in ICE custody, without a lawyer.

A perfect example of bureaucracy and "the rules" used for evil.

A while ago I was thinking the same about compensation but then someone pointed out that if you were eligible for one, they would have incentive to not let you go.

It would be cheaper for everyone to just keep you unfairly.

> [...] they would have incentive to not let you go

This is where separation of powers is important. A judiciary shouldn't care that the executive branch is on the hook for compensation.

Except, the executive branch appoints judges.

This is why Supreme Court justices are appointed for life. At least in theory, they'll carry out their job impartially because they don't have to run for re-election. They'll hold their position long past when the current administration so any conflict of interest should be mitigated over time. Directly electing judges has its own set of problems. I'm not trying to argue for one way over the other, just pointing out that the executive branch appointing judges is not inherently wrong.

first off, given the context of having kept someone 22 years this sounds ridiculous.

If they kept someone 2.2 years and then didn't compensate you could argue incentives to keep but after a certain amount of years it seems like there isn't any difference between what they actually are doing and how they would behave with incentive not to let you go.

Aside from that there could be ways to structure compensations, for example a scheme where you get less compensation per year for short time, more compensation per year for longer time might make them want to let you go and cut their losses once they determine you were innocent.

This wouldn't be true if the payout were less than the ongoing cost of incarceration.

I'm sure it's a few levels more complex than that though; the ongoing cost of incarceration might for example include paying for jobs and services and often is a big part of the county or town economy.

It's not like the judges and the cops are paying out of their pocket?

They already fought tooth and nail to put him in prison and keep him there.

That doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s not like judges/juries pay out of their own pockets.

They might not pay it out of the pocket, but they may pay with their jobs one way or another:

Elected judges and prosecutors may lose elections when the electorate hears they shell out huge compensations, especially to people the electorate is not really convinced are innocent (because unlike the judges, who were at the trial obviously, the electorate learned only a tiny fraction of information about a case from more or less reliable media sources at best, and outright rumors and gossip at worst).

Appointed judges are still appointed by somebody, and that somebody is a (group of) politician(s). These politicians have the same issues as the elected judges and prosecutors, and may avoid this (or even retaliate) by not appointing judges (to higher circuits) that are perceived to be risky in this regard, effectively killing the careers of these judges. So if you want to become an appointed judge, you still better pay close attention to the political scene and play ball.

How are these compensations in the US? I know in some European countries they're below minimal wage and don't care for any asset losses.

A good number of states (~20ish) don't offer any compensation at all.

Wisconsin's limit is $5k/year and $25k/total, which comes out to about 2% of the Federal hourly minimum wage in OP's case.

You can sue, but that risks the result being $0.

You'd have to sue on contingency too which lops 30% off the top of any settlement as well.

From the start of the AMA: "the public defender ... didn’t have time or the resources to prove my innocence". The defence isn't supposed to have to prove anything, that's the job of the prosecution - but what surprises me even more is that no-one seems to have picked up on that point. Suggestion for US readers - it's not a justice system if it imprisons innocence people at an overly high rate.

This is a naive view, and doesn’t reflect anything unique about the US justice system at all. Innocent until proven guilty is a nice ideal to aspire too, but at the end of the day, you’re dealing with the opinions of a dozen random jurors. The fact that somebody chose to charge the accused with a crime is enough to prejudice them off the bat. Defence will always carry at least some burden of proof.

Not just "a dozen random jurors", but rather "a dozen random jurors who individually usually don't want to be there and just want to go back home to eat and live their lives - and by the way, when is lunch?"

I've never been on a jury (and likely never will be - closest I got was "voir dire", and when I was questioned I inadvertently brought up the concept of a fully informed jury - and they dismissed all of us virtually then-and-there - that was over a decade ago and I have yet to be called for jury duty again), but from what I have read about other people who have, your fellow jurors, regardless of their intellect or life experience, really don't give a damn about seeking justice or truth, but rather the most expedient way to leave the whole thing behind and get back home.

Then - you get someone like me (who gets past voir dire of course) - who does want to get as close to the truth as possible by examining and questioning and discussing everything, and if there is any doubt - will not vote unanimously with everyone else (who just want to go home) - after being sent back to the juror's room a couple of times...well, most people would likely fold - because the other jurors gang up on them, scream, threaten to fight, argue, make other threats, etc - rather than actually do the job they were entrusted with - especially in a case where a person's life is at stake.

They are all quite selfish, and don't really care about the defendant, and almost actively hate a fellow juror who does care about the process, about what is at stake, and about coming to the most just conclusion (especially if that conclusion is "the law is wrong"). Jurors tend to forget that the jury is one of their most important Constitutional rights and duty as citizens in the United States; as the saying goes,

“A man's rights rest in three boxes. The ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.”

Let's hope we never again need to use the last one, which is why the jury box is so important.

Why would you not vote for conviction if there is any doubt when the standard is beyond a reasonable doubt?

> opinions of a dozen random jurors

The jurors are not random. The prosecution will dismiss jurors until they find enough totalitarian, axe-to-grind morons as is necessary to convict.

He was able to read over 1000 books and notes it as one of the positives. That is way more than most people will read in their lifetime.


This popped out for me because, having time to read, is always the first thing that comes to my mind about being imprisoned.

I think that is changing though: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/incarcerated-pennsyl...

I cannot fathom working on a product like this, to extract as much as possible from people who already have almost nothing. It makes my blood boil.

Thats an absolutely terrible and ignorant and draconian policy.

Malcolm Little essentially reinvented himself as Malcolm X while in prison, largely through reading hundreds of books.

I suppose it was inevitable that as my word-base broadened, I could for the first time pick up a book and read and now begin to understand what the book was saying. Anyone who has read a great deal can imagine the new world that opened. Let me tell you something: from then until I left that prison, in every free moment I had, if I was not reading in the library, I was reading on my bunk. You couldn’t have gotten me out of books with a wedge. Between Mr. Muhammad’s teachings, my correspondence, my visitors—usually Ella and Reginald—and my reading of books, months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life.


I've read about 400 books and I'm 30 :-D. Getting there...

This is just a personal opinion, but I don't think that anyone should be sentenced to a term in prison longer than 20 years.

I should also say that I was/am the victim of a crime that, while I wouldn't feel comfortable talking about it here, would normally get someone the death penalty.

The primary reason that I don't support the death penalty is that I don't think that the state can be trusted to kill people humanely. It took me years to come around to this, but I also believe that it isn't punishment. It's revenge.

The reason that I don't support terms longer than 20 years is that, no matter how uncomfortable it is to think about it, its abuse is more horrifying than the crime. Our prison system is barbaric.

Google "California prison gladiator" and tell me that Abu Ghraib was a bunch of bad apples. Prisons produce that kind of abuse systematically.

No matter how bad a crime committed by a single individual is, an institution that that produces the outcomes like those that out prison system creates is worse.

Where I'm from, the prison system has a legacy that is intrinsically tied up to the slavery of the pre-civil war era. Some southern states even have prisons on the grounds of former slave plantations.

In fact one of the things that most american's don't know is that slavery is not prohibited by the constitution. The amendment that banned slavery left a clause in place for prison inmates. This is particularly grotesque because they are still counted for the purposes of determining representation in congress based on population.

Also, prison guard unions aren't prohibited from lobbying state or federal government to pass longer sentences. Never mind for-profit prisons, even prisons run by government aren't free from commercial pressures to keep prisons full.

I'm intimately aware of how horrible crime can be, but prisons do not stop crime.

"Some southern states even have prisons on the grounds of former slave plantations."

To increase the horror of this- some southern states have prisons on the grounds of former slave planations, whose majority black prison population works the field of said plantations for less than a dollar an hour.

That's not exactly just a horrific coincidence; the prison labor system was adopted as a direct continuation of slavery in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, exploiting the explicit exception for penal slavery in the 13th Amendment.

Are you in the US? Not to discount your situation, but you'd need to be murdered for it to be a capital offense here.

Yes, I'm in the US, and yes, it was a murder. It was someone very close to me and the situation is one that I would rather not go into.

I get it. I didn't get murdered. That's not the only way that someone is victimized by the violent death of someone they love. Again, there's more to it than I'm going to go into here, so if you could just cut me some linguistic slack I would appreciate it.

EDIT: I hope this doesn't sound overly aggressive. It wasn't intended to be.

Ah, that makes sense. I probably shouldnt've even raised that point.

Nah, you're good. Cheers.

He's got a gofundme if you want a send a few bucks his way: https://www.gofundme.com/f/ricky-kidd-reunited-after-23-year...

Apparently in Missouri, state law says he's owed no money for being imprisoned unless the wrongful conviction was due to DNA testing.

I didn't expect much and I'm still disappointed. What a misery.

From reddit, link to book written by Ricky Kidd:

> https://smile.amazon.com/Vivid-Expressions-Journey-Inside-In...

He now supports himself through his book sales and speaking tours. That's one way to support him.

If you want to support Midwest Innocence Projecj: https://themip.org/donate/

try wrapping your head around the idea of a 43% unemployment rate. That’s the unemployment rate among formerly incarcerated Black women: https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/outofwork.html

Instead Prisons: https://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/instead_of_prisons/chapte...

> There ought to be no jails; and if it were not for the fact that the people on the outside are so grasping and heartless in their dealings with the people on the inside, there would be no such institutions as jails .... The only way in the world to abolish crime and criminals is to abolish the big ones and the little ones together. Make fair conditions of life. Give men a chance to live .... Nobody would steal if he could get something of his own some easier way. Nobody will commit burglary when he has a house full. The only way to cure these conditions is by equality. There should be no jails. They do not accomplish what they pretend to accomplish. If you would wipe them out there would be no more criminals than now. They terrorize nobody. They are a blot upon any civilization, and a jail is an evidence of the lack of charity of the people on the outside who make the jails and fill them with the victims of their greed.

—Clarence Darrow, An Address to the Prisoners in the Cook County Jail, Chicago, Illinois-1902

As feelgood a quote as that may seem, this line:

> Nobody would steal if he could get something of his own some easier way. Nobody will commit burglary when he has a house full.

is complete nonsense when contrasted against modern times. All the thieves in jail are not there because they stole to feed their family or some other noble deed.

Yep. Agree with his conclusions but also think that his reasoning is nonsense

This is one of the best threads and feedback I have read on HN. The biggest fear among males is prison. Not having proper protection and legal advise changes lives, and it federates deep.

Ricky came and spoke at my firm a month ago after being out for only 72 days. He has an amazing story. He is a phenomenal speaker. I was in charge of logistics for the event and we had a book signing after he spoke. As he signed each book he put a unique and different inscription in EVERY SINGLE BOOK HE SIGNED. Literally no two were the same and he signed a ton of books. I would recommend you bring Ricky to speak wherever you may work so more people can hear his story. Support Ricky directly by buying his book or supporting his GoFundMe.

We are over-taxing the justice system; we need to decriminalize a lot [of] behavior that would be better managed by the health care system. A majority of people in prison are mentally ill. Many are there for drug convictions or behavior in service of an addiction. So reducing the number of people brought into the system would be a strong start. Stop voting for tough-on-crime politicians, and start getting smart on crime. -- Sean O’Brien

I agree with his point, but I think that it's also important to note that there was a reason why 'tough on crime' was electoral gold for so long: the U.S. really did have a problem with violent crime (still does, in comparison to other countries, but it's a lot better now than it was).

There are a whole lot of reasons for that. Our history of racial injustice absolutely destroyed so many black communities, to a degree I hadn't appreciated before I considered it. Closing the asylums (which really were awful, but also really were needed) was another problem. The widespread attitude that the justice system is to punish the guilty rather than reform people who have done bad things is another. I suspect that the fact that Americans descend from folks who were so unusual that they fled across continents and oceans to get away from their communities can't possibly help.

But for all that, prior to the tough-on-crime movement we really did have a problem with real crime — by 'real' I mean crime with actual victims. Things are much better now, and we are much richer now, and so now we have the luxury of being smarter.

No, USA never had such a "problem with violent crime" to justify anything like the evil we've done to the incarcerated in this country. Maybe the media or politicians told you that, but they were scamming your prejudices for attention and votes. Violent crime is much lower now than it was in decades past, but that's true of pretty much anywhere else on earth. The violence we have is mostly a result of drug prohibition (which could go away anytime we decide we'd like less violence) and our colonial legacy. Comparing USA to Belgium is for suckers. The nation to which we are most similar is Brazil. They also have more violence than homogeneous non-colonized nations.

Everyone has their pet issues that they want everyone on the wrong side of put to death (or otherwise punished harshly) for. These people won't vote for officials who don't do that so in order to be most electable politicians/DAs/judges/sheriffs have to be tough on all the crimes and we get the status quo. It's basically a tragedy of the commons that makes reducing input of alleged criminals to the legal system politically impossible.

I'm certainly not one of the "everyone" you describe. Let's be better than that.

Won't civil law measures against wrongful imprisonment come into play here? The state should be paying heftily for putting people into imprisonment wrongfully.

How would you structure a compensation scheme that fairly compensates someone who was wrongly imprisoned before "iPhone" was a thing until now? Assume that his imprisonment has deprived him of the ability to learn critical financial management skills and that society hates unearned entitlements.

> society hates unearned entitlements.

I'd say he spent 22 years earning it.

At any rate its not 0?

Beyond compensating the affected individuals, it will incentivize the state from pursuing false convictions by shoddy/hasty case and trial work.

How much of this nightmare happens in other 1st world countries? Does the adage "Never talk to the police" hold elsewhere/everywhere?

It absolutely can happen but I suspect the frequency is much lower compared to the US (just like being imprisoned in general is much less likely in most other countries). I would certainly hope so.

Most high profile cases of wrongful conviction or almost-wrongful-convictions in Germany are sex crimes or connected to sex crimes with very little reliable evidence.

> The cops don't want to sort anything out, they aren't on your side. They want to nail you. That's all they care about. They have a job to do. That job is to find someone to blame for this problem. So they're gonna do that.

Police in a certain sense always wants to nail people after a crime has been committed. The difference is perhaps that US cops are more happy nailing any convenient person, while police elsewhere rather want to nail who actually did it, which of course does not mean they actually do.

Apart from being directly connected to a serious investigation in which case it is probably most wise to consult a lawyer in any case, I don't have issues talking to the police, be it reporting something or asking for help. If people regard police as an oppressive force that better not be involved in things, that clearly suggests a big problem with the police.

> The difference is perhaps that US cops are more happy nailing any convenient person, while police elsewhere rather want to nail who actually did it, which of course does not mean they actually do.

This seems like gross assumption. I have no doubt there are plenty of genuinely good American cops who want to do what is right. But the bad cases of the entire nation float to the top of the newspapers/internet and give the impression that the whole country is this way.

I've yet to see actual statistics of wrong imprisonment rates in the US vs. EU. And I'm sure if you broke if down by state you'd find some states have even better cops than EU.

It is always easy to think these things come down to individual's behaviour when systematic pressures and biases can play as big a role if not larger, e.g. pushing for arrest rates.

It happens in Japan much more often than it happens in the USA per capita. They have a 99% conviction rate so you know things are very messed up there. https://www.nippon.com/en/japan-topics/c05401/order-in-the-c...

For the first, not so much, for the second, usually this is good advice but it depends on where you are how strict you'd have to apply it.

America is fairly unique in that its justice system is so driven by money, but good lawyers are expensive everywhere.

Good lawyers are expensive, but e.g in Norway for example there are no dedicated public defenders - the state pays private criminal defense lawyers. Not everyone will sign up to it, but most high profile defence lawyers have, as the rates are generous enough.

I refused military service (Norway has compulsory conscription for men) , and when the DOJ sued to get a declarative judgement that I was not entitled to do so, I got one of the best lawyers in the country appointed for free.

The system still has lots of issues, but that part for the most part works very well in avoiding the issue of the prosecutors being able to bully people into submission.

The lack of plea bargaining also helps, but that is contingent of first having good enough provisions for public defence.

I remember a famous case in France where a guy spent 15 years before being released. He would have been sentenced to death a few years before, when death penalty was still in place.


There was another case, more recently:


I suspect it happens in all countries (some more than others, probably). No human institution is perfect.

Depends if you consider the US to be a first world country or not:



When you read about the history of the prison / legal system in the US it makes sense though.

the "first world" includes the US by definition.

It's not necessarily about wrongful convictions, though they are included, but I'd recommend reading a book called 'The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It's Broken'[1] if you were interested in some of the issues in the criminal justice system in the UK. Things have got so bad recently that criminal justice practitioners have actually been on strike a few times.

[1] https://thesecretbarrister.com/

> Does the adage "Never talk to the police" hold elsewhere/everywhere?

We have better protections in the US against self-incrimination than most other 1st world countries. In most other places I'd talk to a lawyer first but plan on talking to the police once I had counsel.

If you are interested in this matter, watch The confession Tapes in Netflix, and learn why you should never talk to cops (nor brag about crimes [you haven't committed - and even if you have, you don't want to start talking without a good lawyer helping you out first because a deal might be on the table, etc.).

https://www.netflix.com/title/80161702 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Confession_Tapes

Another nightmare that could even come close, I can not imagine.

These letters from his public defender seem horrible.


Thank you for the link.

What I find really appalling, besides the letters by the lawyer is that the attempt to have her changed was submittd to court on a pre-printed form, which means logically that it is very commmon to have "free" defenders doing nothing.

The way the form is laid down, the five pre-printed "statements of facts" are an exact list of infringements to all the duties that a public defender should have and represent IMHO serious accusations that in other countries would likely trigger at the very least an "ethics" investigation on the lawyer.

Besides any reason, true or false, given for requesting the change of one's defense, having it granted should be a basic right.

The fact that the legal system can work correctly only if you throw enough money into it, that's scary. Is it a good thing that only wealthy persons can afford a correct legal treatment? Not seems to be in a free and open society the US claims to have.

The US never claimed to be a free & open society. It’s just interpreted that way by people that don’t have any significant wealth. Everyone is created equal when it comes to the significance of the almighty capital.

Another sad situation that discourages death penalty. I can't even imagine the amount of people killed when they did nothing wrong.

People bring up this argument all the time as if there are no other alternatives (black or white fallacy). How about a simple rule to abide by: if there is any ounce of doubt as to whether the person committed the crime that puts the death penalty on the table, then it doesn't get upheld. They can get punished in other ways if evidence is strong enough though.

The death penalty would only apply to clear-cut cases. And there have already been a bunch of those (mass shooters, etc.).

We already have the simple rule that if there is any reasonable doubt that they committed the crime, they shouldn’t be punished. That doesn’t seem to be working at all.

There are two reasons we can’t just have a higher standard for the death penalty. The first is that there isn’t a sensible standard stronger than proof beyond reasonable doubt. The second is that even if we impose a higher standard, that standard won’t be enforced correctly. Similar to how proof beyond reasonable doubt isn’t enforced correctly now.

> We already have the simple rule that if there is any reasonable doubt that they committed the crime, they shouldn’t be punished.

This is different from what I wrote. When there's a serious punishment like the death penalty, then any ounce of doubt should waive it. Other lesser punishments can still hold if evidence is strong enough.

I addressed this in the second half of my comment. There isn’t a sensible standard stricter than proof beyond reasonable doubt, and the current standard isn’t enforced properly so I don’t see why adding another one will magically fix the issue.

Because it already works like this in other regions/cultures, and it seems to be doing quite well.

There is already the law that in order to convict someone there can't be any doubts regarding his/her actions. And yet here we are. Judges are humans and make mistakes and the jury is even worse.

Remember that what is so clear to you might be not so clear to a judge or to the person next to you.

You still can't equate mass shooting perpetrators with other scenarios for example. In this case, there is no doubt whatsoever who committed the crime.

I have been living in Germany for many years and the prison (and justice) system is obviously different hear. Quite a few Americans think it's ludicrous here. But reading this, I beg to differ. This is also just heartbreaking.

It's also crazy to think he gets no state compensation for this sort of thing.

The German legal system works very differently. I can see how US citizens would be comfused about that. In Germany, the Judge asks questions and arrives at a verdict. The prosecution and the defense state their cases and bring evidence, also question the witnesses etc... but the Judge has a lot of control over the process of examination. So the nature of the court proceedings is not fundamentally adversarial as both parties have to convince a person who tends to ask hard questions about the arguments that are brought before the court. I have witnessed judges tear through bullshit arguments with ease.

Judges may be guided by personal biases. That does happen. To balance that, ordinary citizens are drafted as layman judges (Schöffen) to assist in more important cases for fixed terms (not individual cases). They are present to balance out professional judges and any biases they may develop as part of the system. They are passive observers in the court room, but have an equal say in deciding the final judgement. So this may lead to panels of up to five judges presiding over a case.

The resulting system is not perfect. But I got the impression from my personal experience that it is quite fair and balanced over all. It isn't a perfect system, and some egregious errors are made. Some have ruined lives unnecessarily. But on average, it still looks fairer to me than what I hear about the US system.

'anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law'. This sentence police say condemns the us system to a game where the objective is to beat the opponent. It's ingrained in the system every step of the way, even with a person's supposed 'rights'.

This may be a dumb question, but if I'm in the situation where I'm being questioned by the police and need a lawyer, how do I get one (a decent one, not a public defender)? Is there a hotline or something? I've never interacted with a lawyer before.

Thank God for PBS NewsHour. Some the best, most professional (exhibiting neutrality, just the facts) journalists we have.

Cutting and pasting this comment from the thread:

As someone once falsely accused of a crime and facing 12 years in prison. I went to trial and I have some advice for people.

1. You gotta start acting and thinking like you're guilty. Ask yourself "if I was guilty and trying to get away with this, what would I do?"

When you're innocent you think that your innocence means something. It doesn't. Discount it and move on.

2. Get the best lawyer you can not afford. Borrow from anyone and everyone. I borrowed 120k for my trial. Had to work my ass off to pay people back but it was worth every cent.

EDIT: Another mindset to use is to remember it's NOT a justice system. It's a legal system, so get the best damn team you can. Because you're in a legal game not a justice game. Know what game you're playing before you step on the floor.

3. Never ever ever ever talk to the cops. Retain your right for silence. It's the greatest gift you have. The cops don't want to sort anything out, they aren't on your side. They want to nail you. That's all they care about. They have a job to do. That job is to find someone to blame for this problem. So they're gonna do that. Don't help them do that. Save your ammunition for trial. My jury ended up laughing at the prosecutor and the investigating officer in the trial.

I was acquitted of 13 charges in under 70 minutes by my jury. If I had of used a public defender I would be in prison still. With another 6 years to go.

Hopefully this advice helps someone else. Hit me up if you're in trouble with the law and just want an ear to listen.

PS. If you're guilty, I got nothing for you, no idea how to help you.

EDIT: Another mindset to use is to remember it's NOT a justice system. It's a legal system, so get the best damn team you can. Because you're in a legal game not a justice game. Know what game you're playing before you step on the floor.



> 3. Never ever ever ever talk to the cops. Retain your right for silence. It's the greatest gift you have. The cops don't want to sort anything out, they aren't on your side. They want to nail you. That's all they care about. They have a job to do. That job is to find someone to blame for this problem. So they're gonna do that. Don't help them do that. Save your ammunition for trial. My jury ended up laughing at the prosecutor and the investigating officer in the trial.

That's the same advice usually given here when someone is asking how to deal with HR.

I was on a jury a few months ago (in the UK) where we were given the transcript of the police interview. If it had been a series of refusals to answer, it would have looked very shady. The shock and surprise of the accused was palpable from the transcript and believeable.

The UK doesn't have the same right to silence. Nor anything about taking the fifth either. Refusal to answer could be taken as obstruction of justice or contempt of court, and will likely be considered relevant information for a jury.

It's a bit more nuanced than that.

Obviously we can't "take the fifth" since we don't share the US constitution, but we do have a right to silence when you're the defendant in typical criminal proceedings and you can't be held in contempt for that silence. However there is no right to silence for example during investigations by the Serious Fraud Office, or when requiring disclosure of encryption keys under RIPA. However in the case of a SFO investigation, if they then want to charge you criminally, you have the right to silence and they can't use evidence you've been compelled to give previously. The RIPA stuff is bullshit and is widely considered overreach but the powers that be really don't want to change it for obvious reasons.

In criminal proceedings, you have a right to silence - however in limited, defined situations, adverse inferences can be drawn from that silence. Adverse influences can't be drawn until you've had the opportunity to seek legal advice, so the advice to shut up and ask for a lawyer still stands.

The cases where adverse influences can be drawn are things like refusing to answer why you were in a particular place at the time of arrest and for example only coming up with an answer days later or even at court. Your lawyer will of course advise you what you need to answer.

That said, irrespective of what the law says and how the judge directs the jury, nothing can stop them drawing adverse influences from whatever they want to draw adverse influences from. So it's possibly worth considering that when deciding to remain silent.

This is strongly overstating the case:

The UK right to silence is pretty well summarised in the modern wording of the police caution: "You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence."

Staying silent is not obstruction of justice or contempt of court. No one is ever required to respond to questioning. But it might lose you credibility in court of you produce an alibi or other defence at trial that you didn't mention during questioning.

The only exception is passwords and encryption keys, which have to be supplied if a court order is obtained and aren't considered testimony.

The right to silence was changed to this in the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

The reason for the change (AIUI) was due to the arrest of IRA dissidents who remained silent and then produced alibis in court that would have been easy to dispel at the time but were not so easily dismissed in court, once they had gathered support from their communities.

Incidentally, the 1994 act also banned music containing "repetitive beats" and legalised anal sex between heterosexual couples, albeit with a number of caveats and conditions.

More info is available at the Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_Justice_and_Public_Or...

In one of my stints of jury service, the accused had heavily exercised his right to silence over a lengthy period. At the subsequent trial the judge made a point of instructing the jury we must infer nothing at all from his silence and judge solely on the facts of the case, as presented in court.

I do not know what edge cases the addition of "But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court." was meant to protect against, and how, but it is absolutely nowhere near obstruction of justice or contempt of court.

> I do not know what edge cases the addition of "But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court." was meant to protect against

Technically this is true. If you make a statement to the police, then that statement can be used as evidence at trial (both against you and in your defence). If you don’t make a statement, then the only way to get your testimony in front of the jury (should that be necessary), is to take the stand, where you will be subjected to cross examination. A process where you (probably not a lawyer) will have to argue with a lawyer who will be doing their best to make you trip over every single thing you say, in front of a jury, for a number of hours.

So while it does potentially have a benefit, it’s still always a bad idea, because you’ll want to see the discovery before you say anything at all.

That benefit seems extremely marginal when the presumption if innocence is the standard.

Your explanation for the UK police caution phrasing makes perfect sense, but I wonder now if it's not meant to scare people into talking?

The presumption of innocence is theoretical at best. A prosecutor will present a theory of the case along with their evidence. Simply undermining that theory is often not enough to convince a jury, they’ll often expect the defence to put forward and substantiate a superior theory.

I don’t know the motives of putting that in the warning. But it is at least true, even if it’s almost universally not a good idea.

As I understand it, it was due to some problems that were repeatedly encountered when trying to prosecute members of the Provisional IRA.


It goes further in Northern Ireland, the jury are allowed to infer guilt from your silence - https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/othelem/organ/ai/1993-02-01_ai.pdf

Also in England and Wales, since the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 I believe.

In Germany you do not have to answer questions in cases you would imply yourself or a family member. No idea how it impacts any trials if you do, but from I read and heard it usually doesn't have negative impacts.

> ~~imply~~

> implicate


There is a difference been the US and many other places.

For starters the prosecution isn't trying to scare people into a plea bargain. Many places the police aren't allowed to lie to you.

And many places the police can be called to testify on your behalf.

I don’t think he meant never talk to them, but never talk to them until have you’ve set up your legal counsel and sought their advice.

People talk all of the time without lawyers, thinking lawyering up might make them look guilty.

You are not allowed to take the persons silence as a sign of guilt in the US. If you invoke your right there wouldn’t be a transcript.

The US Supreme Court has said that you must invoke your right to remain silent. It doesn't seem constitutional, but it is currently the law. (Salinas v. Texas and People v. Tom)

That's not entirely true. They ruled that silence in a non-custodial interview could be admissable at trial. Silence in custodial interviews is still not admissable and they didn't actually decide the question of whether or not silence can be taken as substantive evidence of guilt.

What is "silence in a non-custodial interview" and how is that different from no interview at all?

It means remaining silent when you are not under arrest or being detained.

Sadly the court considers detainment to be non-custodial and rarely do they venture to better define when a detainment turns into an arrest.

GP's point is that the transcript did help.

> The shock and surprise of the accused was palpable from the transcript and believeable.

They are refuting the prior point -- that if the accused had been silent (when asked questions in the transcript) it would have looked like they were guilty. So this point is -- in U.S. it wouldn't, because they wouldn't even be discussing the transcript. (IANAL and have no idea of the accuracy, just clarifying the argument).

I think this is where having a great lawyer comes in.

That goes hand in hand with the UK providing you with a higher quality lawyer if you can't afford it.

In the US, the cops try very hard to question you (for hours) without one. And while there is a public defender system, it doesn't usually provide a competent lawyer.

The UK's budget for legal aid has been slashed dramatically in recent years under the Conservative government under the guise of austerity.

This is well documented in the (very readable) book "The Secret Barrister". https://thesecretbarrister.com/

The author claims that the cuts are not even cost-effective, often leading to more spending by government to deal with the consequences.

I will second the book. The author also has a presence on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BarristerSecret

How do you get to be a lawyer in the US if you aren't competent?

Like all professions there are levels of ability and competence. Like all professions those levels are very often but not always reflected in pay scale (including levels of experience). Even with that said I am sure many public defenders are excellent attorneys trying to help less fortunate people, they often have to contend with 80+ cases every week. There is no way an attorney can be expected to provide excellent representation when dealing with that many cases, its just not possible.

Public defenders also get far less resources than prosecutors.

They’re quite prestigious positions to get, somewhat ironically. My guess is that cynicism creeps in over time too, you see similar patterns over and over, and combined with the high caseload probably does lead to over reliance on instinct.

Well, it isn't always that they aren't competent. Put that same lawyer in a position where they are paid, and I'm guessing things would improve.

But what actually happens is that the system makes them incompetent simply being in the job. For example, the caseload is too high, which means that they cannot spend the time a paid lawyer would spend on it. Folks also get little choice in which of these cases they take and which they do not. On top of all of this, they are working in a system stacked against them and they usually aren't getting paid much.

Passing the bar implies some level of technical competence. It doesn't say much about the service delivered to indigent defendants. I suspect it is a mix of overworked, burned out, jaded, pressure to take a plea deal to reduce load, etc.

It’s a big field, I’m a lawyer and I know my one niche really well. I’m competent in that niche. Throw something at me like a criminal case and I’m worse than incompetent because I might let my arrogance eclipse my incompetence. It doesn’t help that the ethical rules defer to the lawyer, essentially, to decide if they are competent or willing to put in the effort to become competent for a given matter. Factoid: the only regulated legal practice in the US is patent matters. You have to be a patent lawyer to represent clients in patent matters. I guess the ethicists decided you can’t bluff your way through engineering, lol.

Doesn't matter much if the lawyer only has 10-15min allocated for your case.

In the UK silence can be taken as proof of criminality. In the US the following statement would mean there is no transcript:

"I'm asserting my 5th amendment right to silence not because I believe I have done anything wrong but because anything I say can and will be used against me in a court of law"

The "miranda" rights in the UK are "You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence."

But the usual advice of - don't say a damn thing until you have legal representation still stands.

You have no obligation to say anything until provided with a solicitor.

You have no obligation to... but the jury can hold that against you.

It seems somewhat reasonable to me - if you have an alibi then you should tell that to the Police as soon as practical. Otherwise you're wasting everyone's time.

> if you have an alibi then you should tell that to the Police as soon as practical.

Do not take this advice. Talk to a lawyer.

If you have an alibi, you can tell your alibi to a lawyer, and your lawyer can communicate your alibi to the police before you go to trial. You won't be wasting anyone's time, you'll just be giving the police the same evidence through someone who is trained to talk to police officers, and isn't going to accidentally say something that's misinterpreted or twisted to turn your life into a nightmare.

If you are being suspected of a crime, it doesn't matter if you're innocent -- the police are not your friends.

I didn't say don't talk to a lawyer first. You've imagined that part.

It is a fact full stop that a jury can hold it against you if you unreasonably delay giving important information - it's not my opinion.

Fair enough -- I just want to stress that you should talk to the police through a lawyer.

You should not sit down and talk to the police unless your lawyer is sitting directly next to you. Ideally, your lawyer should contact the police on your behalf with your alibi and you should never directly talk to them.

We can't realistically keep a jury from holding that against you the same way that we can't realistically keep a jury from randomly misinterpreting the law, or convicting someone just because they're black -- but we make it clear to them that they're really not supposed to. And the risk from talking to the police without a lawyer present is much higher than the risk of a jury punishing you for exercising your 5th Amendment rights -- you should err on trusting a jury to do the right thing more than you should err on trusting a prosecutor to do the right thing.

> but we make it clear to them that they're really not supposed to

No we don't in the UK.

Except in a very few cases related to terror or fraud or being at the border you have a right to a solicitor before answering questiins. Furthermore if the police don't allow you one then they would be breaking the law.

Ok? That doesn't contradict anything I said.

The key is that asking for a solicitor is not an unreasonable delay.

So the basic advice not to talk to the police holds.

Waiting for a lawyer does not seem unreasonable.

I didn't say it was?

I am not a lawyer. I have not studied law, and do not know what comments are innocuous to make, and what comments would be used against me. I do not know what constitutes an alibi in the eyes of the law. I do not know what questions police are legally allowed to ask.

It is unreasonable to expect a person to know the detailed workings of the legal system. It is therefore unreasonable for there to be any negative consequences whatsoever for waiting until there is a legal expert present.

> It is therefore unreasonable for there to be any negative consequences whatsoever for waiting until there is a legal expert present.

You don't need to be a legal expert to answer basic questions from a Police officer about did you do something or were you in a location at a time. They aren't lawyers either! And I didn't say you couldn't ask for a lawyer and wait for one to turn up before answering...

But if they charge you for speeding, and then you wait six months until the trial, and claim only at that point that you weren't the one driving. Come on... that's a waste of society's time.

In many jurisdictions, law enforcement have gray areas as to what they can ask, how they can ask it, and how they can use your answers.

Their job is to collect evidence and send it to the prosecutor. They're given wide latitude to collect it as quickly as possible, and while law enforcement and the public attorney's offices are by and large just trying to see justice done fairly, they're almost always understaffed and over-pressured.

People act weird in pressure situations. Law enforcement personnel deal with law breaking every day, but the rest of us don't. If you're innocent and confronted with an accusation of a crime, in your resulting heightened emotional state, you don't want to say something stupid or in a way that makes you look unnecessarily suspicious.

In this situation it should be ok for you to not answer questions, wait until your involuntary adrenaline reaction wears off, and then have a conversation about it.

> In this situation it should be ok for you to not answer questions, wait until your involuntary adrenaline reaction wears off, and then have a conversation about it.

I don't think it is if you know someone else committed the offence and they are still out there, potentially still offending.

If you know the identity of a rapist, saying 'I'm not going to talk to the Police until convenient for me' is a rotten attitude.

> You don't need to be a legal expert to answer basic questions from a Police officer about did you do something or were you in a location at a time. They aren't lawyers either! And I didn't say you couldn't ask for a lawyer and wait for one to turn up before answering...

Wrong. In interviews, the police can (and do) lie, lead, present circumstantial evidence as smoking guns, etc. They are not lawyers, but they are well versed in the law. They are also in all probability more experienced in asking questions and interviewing than you are, even if you're smarter than them.

Everything you say to the police can and will literally be used against you. When you speak, even if you're innocent, you give up the biggest advantage you have. ANY inconsistencies will be used against you. Words can be given uncharitably during trial. They police WILL ASK YOU QUESTIONS that a prosecutor WILL NOT BE ALLOWED to ask in a trial (speculation, leading, etc), but if you answer the police it can be used in a trial and will in all likelihood be recorded. Ever listen to yourself later and cringe? Yeah.

Even if you present a consistent story from police interview to trial, you can't even use that consistency to your benefit, but the prosecutor can use the inconsistencies against you. Your silence can't be mentioned during a trial. It cannot be used against you.

Look, if it's a speeding ticket by all means talk to the police. If saw a criminal running away, tell the police what direction they headed.

If you've been detained or are in any way at risk of it, call a laywer.

> If you've been detained or are in any way at risk of it, call a laywer.

I didn't say don't.

The fact that you’re having to clarify your points to everybody means your wording implied otherwise.

What you say can't be used in your favor. It can only be used against you. And if you are innocent, then it's the police who are wasting society's time (though I am not sure what that means) and they can wait a bit longer when it comes to making sure justice is done properly and not incompetently rushed.

> What you say can't be used in your favor. It can only be used against you.

And in the UK, what you don't say can be used against you.

> it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court

> What you say can't be used in your favor.

Is it accurate to say that it actually can't be used in your favor, or that it simply won't be?

No the jury cannot hold against you that you asked for a lawyer. In fact if you are not provided with one after asking then the police would be in violation of PACE codes and the prosecution is unlikely to even go to trial.

I am not a solicitor of course.

> No the jury cannot hold against you that you asked for a lawyer.

Lol that isn't what I said, is it?


These days it doesn't seem to apply to non-union workers, unfortunately -- which is like reason #93 to want a union.

Could you expand on that? What does it mean to 'not talk to HR'? Isn't it unavoidable in a job application process?

They mean for workplace problems, like complaints, harassment, etc. The line is "HR's job is to protect the company not you."

HR's normal functions like hiring, compensation, benefits, transfers, etc are fine to talk about.

It's so dystopian though. The company consists of its employees. Usually the interests should be aligned.

Ahh... welcome to the world. You are a cost center. You are a potential legal liability if anything you do could cause the company to have to defend itself.

And you may also do great things, and help do awesome corporate projects.

But first and foremost, your employment is a bet by the company that your usefulness will outweigh your potential minefields.

You mean welcome to the US. I'm not there.

HR would be a legal liability if I came to them with problems, they didn't help me and it would later lead to something like depression or burnout causing me to be unable to work because of it. That's a much bigger risk than whatever legal liability you have in mind.

Of course I am a cost center and my employment is that bet by the company, but that's beside the point. Good working conditions increase the chance of that bet being in the money.

Perhaps he means when you’re already part of the company. You should nonetheless fight for your rights, but HR is not there to help you as employee, I suppose is what the message is about. They are there to safeguard the company from employee wrongdoings (be it true or not). I’d say talk to HR, but be 100% prepared to get backlash (maybe fire you) from them just in case. Sue them, move on.

Yep. Build your own case, maybe even consult a lawyer, _then_ talk to HR.

HR works for the company, not you. No fun chats, no office-gossip, do NOT talk to HR.

What is HR?

Human Resources, not home run.

Human Resources.

Humility Resistance


"Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."

I thought I knew what this phrase meant, but its truth never hit home until I stood before a judge. Perhaps it would be better phrased as "everything you say can and will be used against you" It's shocking and frightening how a comment that you'd think is a positive for yourself will be cynically twisted to make you look terrible. The comment above about the prosecutor is telling: the man who prosecuted me used self-created fabrications to make up for his lack of a case against me. The judge told him that the documents that he had on his desk directly refuted what the prosecutor claimed, and the prosecutor continued with his case as though getting caught lying was just a matter of course. And it was. Lying is only a problem for the defendant. If the prosecutor doesn't ruin your life with imprisonment, the legal system will ruin it with the money that it takes to defend yourself.

Not only that, but it specifically says against you. Note that it doesn't say anything you say can and will be used as evidence in a court of law.

A police officer can testify to statements you made or actions you took that will incriminate you. But if the defense counsel asks them to testify to similar statements or actions that will exonerate you, the prosecution will object to it as hearsay, and it will be sustained. You'll need to take the stand to make such claims, which opens you up to cross-examination.

Yeah it is transparently a fucked up assymetrical system in that behavior that looks like it should be grounds for disbarring a judge for not being impartial is instead expected behavior and /not/ doing so would itself be judicial misconduct for allowing blatant hearsay.

> A police officer can testify to statements you made or actions you took that will incriminate you. But if the defense counsel asks them to testify to similar statements or actions that will exonerate you, the prosecution will object to it as hearsay, and it will be sustained.

This sounds like an incredibly broad statement that, by its breadth alone, seems false. Do you have any/many examples of this happening? I would think this is an extremely common occurrence by your statement.

This is covered fairly specifically in the famous "don't talk to the police" (parts 1 and 2) lecture on Youtube, and was corroborated by the police officer that participated in the lecture.

> Never ever ever ever talk to the cops. Retain your right for silence. It's the greatest gift you have. The cops don't want to sort anything out, they aren't on your side. They want to nail you. That's all they care about. They have a job to do. That job is to find someone to blame for this problem. So they're gonna do that. Don't help them do that. Save your ammunition for trial. My jury ended up laughing at the prosecutor and the investigating officer in the trial.

Beware this advice can vary from country to country. In England and Wales for example if you don't say something to the police that you later rely on for your defense that can be used against you e.g. they ask 'why was your boot full of weapons and where were you heading?' you stay silent then later state in court 'it was my brother's car, he asked me to drive it to a friend's house and pick him up, I didn't think to check in the boot' they could perhaps infer you'd taken some time to concoct a false story which is why you didn't answer the question initially however the rules are complex: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_silence_in_England_an.... You do have the right for a duty solicitor to attend an interview who can advise you on prudent things to say and where you should stay silent.

EDIT: Initially said this applied to the whole UK, actually only England and Wales (from the linked Wikipedia page) uncertain about Scotland & Northern Ireland.

The extremely adversarial approach to "justice" is an issue specific to the US (and probably some other countries), and is not universal.

Do definitely have a lawyer present, but whether or not to talk to the police varies a lot per country. Personally, I think that not talking to the police being such vital advice in the US, is a strong condemnation of how the American system works. People should be able to trust the police, and the police and prosecutors should be working to do justice, not merely to lock up as many people as possible. Every innocent person behind bars is a failure of the system.

I respectfully disagree that this is specific to the US. I think it has been an issue everywhere throughout history.

Don't get me wrong. It's a great thing when a country overcomes it and manages to create a fair, even-handed justice system.

But human nature is to want to see something done about it when crimes happen. That's why before formal justice systems existed (and still today in certain undeveloped areas), a mob would form and just take out -- as in kill -- the suspect on the spot. Without really being sure that they were guilty.

The idea of deferring punishment, recognizing and protecting the rights of the accused, and conducting a fair, orderly trial is a wonderful thing, but it's not the default. It's really more like an achievement in human evolution.

It has to do with incentives. When incentivized for the number of arrests and convictions, no one cares if it's the right people. Add in that there is almost zero penalty for prosecutorial misconduct unless it is extreme, and it's no wonder so many innocent people end up in jail.

Prosecutors play fast and loose to win the game, justice be damned.

Yeah, the system needs to be fixed. Instead of rewarding people for number of convictions, right or wrong, they should be rewarded for reducing crime by independent measurement. Or simply be rewarded for doing their job as honestly as possible, with proper accountability and all that.

But rewarding police and prosecutors for the number of convictions is like rewarding programmers for the number of lines of code. It rewards bad code and unjust convictions.

Maybe there should be a justice-equivalent of code review for police and prosecutors.

It was called the grand jury, they made reports on issues of public concern, and authorized private prosecutors to pursue cases against suspects.

It isn't clear what sort of reforms are needed, but grand juries are the only democratic institution in our republic.

In my experience from being on a jury in England I would say absolutely don't say anything to the police unless directed by your solicitor. The amount of adverse inference a jury will take from silence is limited if you later give a good explanation in court. A jury has to be sure to convict you, it's not the case that if you don't say anything they can convict you on the absence of evidence. If you do say something to the police it will be printed out and given to the jury and they will compare it to what you said in court. So although there is theoretically no "pleading the 5th" in UK, in practice the advice doesn't change.

"The amount of adverse inference a jury will take from silence is limited if you later give a good explanation in court."

If it was possible to "sticky" a comment here, this would be the stickiestable comment.

In the UK don't speak to the police without a lawyer/solicitor present. You can then "no comment" on legal advice.

"The Secret Barrister" is an incredible read on the failings of the judicial system in the UK. I'm sure most of it applies to the US as well.

One of the key takeaways was that the Police will start building a case against you from the very first moment they start interviewing you. So the advice to not talk to the police is very relevant if you believe there is a chance to be incriminated.

The book also gives an introduction to the Inquisitorial law system - used in most of the EU - where the judge plays an active role in the investigation and finding the 'truth'; in contrast to the Adversarial system of law - used in the UK and US - where each side competes with facts and the judge is a referee; and how all of this affects the judicial process.

Your silence can only be held against you if it occurs after you've had the opportunity to consult a solicitor.


So the advice holds. Don't say anything unless your solicitor tells you to do so.

In Northern Ireland, guilt can be inferred from your silence - https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/othelem/organ/ai/1993-02-01_ai.pdf

Does that count for Scotland too? Legal system is completely different here for example in England when you buy a house it is not legally binding agreement until keys are exchanged whereas in Scotland it is binding as soon as both parties sign the agreement

That’s not quite true, in England the purchase of a house is not binding until the contract is signed and exchanged with a deposit, but completing the contract (paying the balance, handing over the keys) can be done at some agreed point in the future. In Scotland the difference is that when you make the offer to buy you include any conditions that need to be met (things that should they come up in conveyancing would cause you to withdraw). If the seller accepts the offer + the conditions you can only pull out under the conditions stated in the offer rather than for any reason you like. The process is still fundamentally: offer -> conyeancing -> contract -> completion

essentially it is easier to pull out in England than in Scotland

Ah maybe not, the wikipedia page I link to is titled 'Right to silence in England and Wales' implying things are different in Scotland. I'll edit my post.

> Get the best lawyer you can not afford.

I've always wondered, what are good ways to actually find the "best" lawyers?

For the typical person who doesn't keep track of legal cases, wouldn't it be pretty difficult to make a judgement on whether a lawyer or legal firm is super amazing or totally mediocre?

Without going into details of my case and even what type of law it was related to, here is my eight years wasted forever and $240,000 dumped on expensive lawyers that got nowhere: never find lawyer in yellow pages or by referal from friends because every case is different. Always look for lawyers that used to have government job, were prosecutors or even judges (it happens). Like OP said its a game of legal system not a system of justice - you would be suprised how far “buddies that used to work in the same building” can go before anyone can call it a bribe. In my case four lawyers burnt time and money never getting anywhere. I got very inexpensive lawyer that turned out to work for government before. By the end of my free consulatation he got response via personal email from government employee that was holding up my case (indefinitely). By end of week it was positively resolved at the retainer of $2,400.

Unfortunately, finding a good lawyer, or surgeon, is kind of like finding a good auto mechanic. If the people who are providing the endorsement are not overly familiar with the process, that endorsement may not be of much value. And sometimes the professional may be great for some people in some cases, and much less so for other people in other cases. It's partially a function of a poorly designed system. Liberty, such a (allegedly) fundamental right in America, shouldn't hinge on such an ambiguous and capricious process.

It's important to befriend a lot of non-jailed criminals so you can get good recommendations. This is how politicians and businesspeople thrive.

On capriciousness: if people were good enough to create a good justice system, there would be no need for a justice system. The justice system takes as axiom the myth that there are good people and bad people

If you know who your judge will be, but you don't have a lawyer yet, just go sit in their courtroom for a while watching the defenders. You want the one that everyone from the state says hello to, and laughs and jokes with. Even better if they have the same type of rapport with the judge. Follow them out when they're finished, and ask them for their card.

Are you a lawyer? This sounds like clever advice, but inexperienced cleverness can be worse than doing nothing in highly complicated and specialized domains like the law.

For example, it could be interpreted as stalking judge to intimidate them into ruling for you (dumb, but morons have tried this) and the court system responds with overwhelming force to anything smelling of possibly threatening a judge.

This is just a random person on the internet's speculation. It'd be useful to know if your comment is similarly just armchair speculation or if you either have expertise or can cite an example of this working out well.

I'm not a lawyer, but I've unfortunately been a defendant a few times. As for examples, I have only my own, but it's worked out well for me, since I've never been convicted of anything.

Anyone can walk into any courtroom at any time (in most cases), so it wouldn't be misinterpreted as stalking. In fact, there are people out there that go spend the day in the courtrooms for fun - just watching the cases unfold.

The gist is that you want a lawyer that is both known and liked by the state and the judge. They have a much better chance of negotiating on your behalf. You definitely don't want one that they don't like, and that is usually immediately apparent in the courtroom interactions.

Thanks for the detailed reply. Good to know the strategy has been tried in practice.

If you don't have a lawyer yet after your bail hearing you are already in trouble. You should already have a lawyer and use the opportunity to shop for a second lawyer.

I think I'd just pick from a list of lawyers that had recently won criminal cases in the nearest large-ish city--big enough to have full-time cops that do more than write tickets for moving violations.

Spot check your choice by pulling public records for cases in which they served as attorney for the defense, just to make sure they didn't make any obvious mistakes. Bonus points if they got an acquittal from having obviously incriminating evidence suppressed. If they can get a criminal who did the deed off, they should be able to defend a wrongly-accused innocent, right?

Let friends and family know who you want them to call (and pay) if you get pinched.

It seems like low-value research, though, unless you consider yourself at higher risk for being arrested.

>>I've always wondered, what are good ways to actually find the "best" lawyers?

Have the money, the rest is very easy.

IANAL, but boy, do I have some expensive legal services to sell to you!

Snark aside, anyone can charge an arm and a leg. The question is, how do you find someone who isn't just charging a high hourly rate, but is charging it because he or she is very good.

a few phone calls to select people--which those with money are connected to. No snark, just reality.

Seriously though, are there LEGAL CONSULTANTS who will SHOP a LAWYER / LAW FIRM for you and SEE if they'll take your CASE?

These are very very important decisions for most people who are not in the know. Anything beyond traffic violations and petty charges, most people dont know how to go about finding capable legal talent & associated services.

Sites like AVVO notwithstanding, theres no reliable, thorough-going & robust way to shop for a lawyer / law firm.

This is definitely a thorny problem.

I've seen so many terrible lawyers cost clients thousands upon thousands of dollars, because the lawyer doesn't really know how to fight the case, or lacks the skill.

And none of us think about this problem until we need it, and by then the situation is too urgent to research slowly and methodically.

Hopefully someone will solve. Seems like maybe business idea material.

Although, I wonder if Yelp offers sufficient screening...

Thorny indeed. I was targeted and fired by my employer for being a whistleblower-in-the-making. I hired the lawyer that a doctor chose for being scape-goated in the same case. The lawyer was great for the doctor; not so much for the peon. So the same lawyer can be great or not, depending on any number of things.

Thing is, reviews from clients don’t really apply here. You can be a very bad lawyer with very happy clients. You can also be a great lawyer on a bad case and wind up having a pissed off client who finds it more convenient to blame the lawyer than accept reality. Only a peer expert would be able to determine that you’re incompetent. For the software devs here, ask yourself how a non-technical person could find a great software developer to hire, it’s an analogous problem.

You just need to hire a good legal consultant broker finder.

Retired cop here - listen to this dude. My job was to sit down in a room, read a person their rights, make sure they understand it, have them initial 4 places, sign, and date that they understand it, make it clear to them in no uncertain terms that everything they say will be against their benefit, and they have nothing to gain by talking to me.

Then they'd talk to me. Many cases started with a great suspect who had motive, opportunity, corroborating evidence, but there was still reasonable doubt. Then the suspect would tell me all sorts of stuff that I didn't know, which really helped out.

Further, the cops don't assume your arrest, or statements, are invalid due to a lack of Miranda warning. Statements made by the suspect who hasnt been advised of their rights are only inadmissible if the suspect is in some sort of custody, and under some form of interrogation.

If you are sitting on your couch in your home talking to a single cop who hasn't arrested you or anything, you aren't in custody, so the cop can ask you questions all day, and its fair game.

If you get arrested and the cop asks "Are you feeling okay", and you go on and on about the crime you committed, you are making spontaneous statements that aren't the subject of an interrogation, so these are likely admissible as well.

There are gray areas. If you are in the back of the cop car, and 2 cops up front are having a conversation about the case, hoping to guilt you into giving up information, those statements may be inadmissible unless you were advised of the miranda warning.

There was a homicide case where the cops had a suspect, but couldn't prove it. It was the victim's boyfriend. Detectives spoke to him, and asked if they could take him to breakfast on Saturday. The guy cautiously obliged, because free breakfast. He drove his own car, met them there, and they had a nice breakfast. Talked about sports, TV, life, etc. No mention of the case. The cops asked if they wanted to meet them for breakfast again next week. He did. They did this for over a month.

One morning, between bites of pancakes, the Detective asks, "So why'd you kill Jane". The suspect, not missing a beat, replies, "Man, she just pissed me off".

In hindsight, if you didn't commit a crime, follow the advice of the parent post. If you did commit the crime, always talk to the cops; you're smarter than them, you can convince them you're innocent.

Don't you think that Jane killer was in a strange sort of circumstance to be going out to breakfast with the people who admittedly were trying to imprison him? There are underlying issues to address here.

This is why convicting guilty people isn't always right, and jury nullification is important. The law comes down hard on some people and not others, quite unjustly. The legal/penal system has a terrible reputation of its own making.

They weren't trying to imprison him, they were trying to gather evidence of who murdered Jane, which would result in imprisoning that person.

Jane's killer was in a strange circumstance. So was Jane, what with being murdered and all. The unconventional means of getting a confession were not immoral or unethical at all, IMO, and the courts certainly agreed they were admissible.

> When you're innocent you think that your innocence means something. It doesn't. Discount it and move on.

Exactly, thinking your innocent is going to have you saying WAAAAY MORE THAN YOU SHOULD

stuff you are desperate to say thinking everyone's going to "be cool and understanding"

What really happens is that you say a tiny thing with a little inconsistency and it undermines your whole defense. Officers will misremember, prosecutors will misconstrue.


Your reputation doesn't come back. Half of the population has already made up their mind. Forget about it. You need the case to be weak, and if it continues to court you need the jury to stick with the instructions and not be able to convict.

Another mindset to use is to remember it's NOT a justice system. It's a legal system, so get the best damn team you can. Because you're in a legal game not a justice game. Know what game you're playing before you step on the floor.

Wow. That woke me up this morning. I never thought of that, but now it's apparent that this is spot on. And this is the game played by professional criminals (white-collar con-men types).

More to the point, the prosecutors frequently don't really have enough of a case to convict most criminals. They necessarily become experts at bullshitting juries and steamrolling people. The actual facts of the case, like your guilt or innocence, are irrelevant. Their job is to secure the conviction, not to determine guilt.

Obligatory link to "Don't Talk To The Police" => https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-7o9xYp7eE

It's a ~47 video, and even if you don't agree with the conclusion, I think it's excellent. I haven't adopted a "never talk to the police" vibe, but I seriously think twice about talking to cops for anything that matters. For example, if shady person running down street with purse, person yelling "that person grabbed my purse", and cop asks "did you see which way the purse snatcher ran", I'll probably speak up :) . Cop asks me where I was last Saturday night, I'm not inclined to start volunteering information.

> I haven't adopted a "never talk to the police" vibe, but I seriously think twice about talking to cops for anything that matters.

I was a police officer for a good portion of my life. The problem is you may not know what matters. I have a couple teenagers and I don't even let them talk to school administrators without me present if there was some type of trouble at school. I certainly would never let my children talk to the police and I myself, would never talk to the police. You may think what you are saying sounds innocent but you never know how the officer is viewing your statement or what king of evidence they are looking for.

For example, a few years ago my neighbor's house burned down in the middle of the night. He and his family had decided to spend the night elsewhere that night before the fire started. Apparently, he had some hotel points from work travel and they stayed the night at a fancy hotel -- locally. Investigators were suspicious of this so they brought him in for questioning. From his account, he said they were very friendly to him and sorry that his house had burned down. They jokingly asked if he had ever missed any payments on his house. He said actually he missed this months because of a illness in his family that required extra money. But that he had worked it out with the bank. Well the investigator ran with that statement and the fact that his whole family wasn't home and opened an arson investigation with him as the suspect. It took nearly a year to clear him and the insurance wouldn't pay until the investigation was done. He continued to pay for the house and had to live with relatives. The whole thing was crazy. If he wouldn't have talked to the police, they would have relied solely on the fire investigation report which didn't indicate arson.

So as an ex police officer, why do you think your ex colleagues did stuff like this? i.e. Intentionally twist someone's statement or lull them into a false sense of security to say something that will be intentionally misinterpreted?

I know policing is just a job, but given that the impact of your actions can and often screw the lives of innocent people, with no opportunity for recourse on top of that, why do (many?) police officers not feel any responsibility to do the right thing?

You don't hear of doctors and nurses being so callous in their jobs, or at least the rate of incidence seems to be orders of magnitude lower compared to law enforcement.

In your opinion, what can be done to improve the system? Would making it easier to file and win lawsuits against the police/prosecution for incompetence/malpractice help? (similar to doctors)

Not a cop, but it doesnt seem to be much of a stretch to investigate.

Neighbor knows he didn’t do it, but cops don’t. Their job is to collect information and be suspicious (at least to some degree). Detectives are probably rewarded in some way, their job is to deliver a case to a prosecutor.

DA/Prosecutors are rewarded by conviction rates, particularly those who are elected. Has nothing to do with justice or the truth. And ultimately most of them probably feel any injustice isn’t because of the way they did their job, but the Jury making the wrong choice.

I don't think the police took the wrong approach. It was just fueled by what the suspect said. If he would have went in and said "sorry, I just don't feel comfortable talking to you without a lawyer." There would have been no harm. The detective likely would have checked the alibi (ensuring he was at the hotel), relied on the fire investigator's report, and closed the case. But, giving the police more information is only giving them more to explore. Now they may want to look at his financials, did he recently update his insurance, what other debts does he have, are there any weird calls/communications to others, did he purchase anything suspicious, did he conduct any research about arson, etc - and that takes time.

From the one comment, it doesn't sound like the police were doing anything malicious per se. It sounds like the owner of the burned out house gave an investigator a reason to investigate. Imagine being a bored investigator looking for something to do, and then a set of suspicious circumstances falls into your lap. Of course there's going to be an investigation. And that's why you don't talk to the police casually without representation when you could be implicated in something bad.

two reasons IME. one is that it's easy to adopt a just world hypothesis and our biases as humans play it up. imagine doing this on the reg:

- detain someone for something e.g. traffic stop for speeding

- find probable cause e.g. alcohol on breath

- find other bad stuff e.g. a gun or meth

- arrest and mutter under breath "got the bad guy, he deserved it, saved innocent lives" or w/e else

- go back to first step with an additional data point that speeders may also handle drugs and be driving drunk

two, incentives are what they are. police generally aren't rewarded for doing high quality year long investigations that uncover every particular fact in a meticulous and honorable way - there isn't $$ or staff. incentives suggest that closing them gets you farther than "doing a good job, for certain values of good widely held by the public". for the district attorney, they largely have the same incentives (throughput) and so prefer open and shut type setups or plea deals so as to get things moving quickly. so they aren't helping the situation either.

I agree closing cases faster would be seen as favorable.

Good comment & question.

Reading it, it comes to mind that one difference between the medical profession and others is the Hippocratic Oath, starting with the promise to “first, do no harm”.

I don't know of any similar ethos in policing (and there's plenty of popular-culture/film glorification of extralegal means to get the bad guys).

Perhaps policing could benefit from such an approach?

Most departments have a motto. LAPD "To project and serve", NYPD "Fidelis Ad Mortem" (Faithful unto death). I worked in a large metro area and I generally got the impression that you do what is right and follow the rules. I still work in law enforcement, just not on the street anymore (computer crimes) and I still have the same impression with the officers I deal with.

I also have good friends who work in policing (and don't have a problem with most policing as some do).

I certainly would say that police have a solid ethos, which is indeed voiced in mottos like the ones you mention.

The distinction I'm making is that the "do no harm" goal at the top of the medical ethos is different, and wondering if that could help in the policing world.

This video has some great advice, also his speaking skills are excellent, this is even enjoyable to watch as an entertainment piece.

The lawyer (James Duane) actually changed his stance on this. There is an updated version of this video somewhere.

Not sure about a new video of James Duane, but there’s a relatively recent write-up[0].

His advice generally stands, but with caveats:

— To prevent invoking the 5th from seeming as admission of guilt to jurors and to the public, it may be safer to invoke the right to counsel instead and refuse to talk without your lawyer present.

— In case of traffic stops invoking the 5th may be overkill and polite talk may be productive, unless body or car search (or canine sniffing) is involved.

[0] https://www.wglt.org/post/when-not-talk-police

> — In case of traffic stops invoking the 5th may be overkill and polite talk may be productive, unless body or car search (or canine sniffing) is involved.


Being polite is 100% the way to go, even if the officer is being a jerk. Many of them want to get a reaction out of you. Best thing to do is to roll down your window all the way, turn the lights on in the car, keep your hands on the steering wheel, and always use sir or ma'am when responding to them. Ask for permission to do anything. I've had good luck being polite and pleading either ignorance or stupidness, depending on what the violation is. Generally, never argue, and just challenge the violation in court. If its bad, get a lawyer specializing in traffic violations. If its minor, calling the officer and trying to set up a face-to-face meeting to ask if there is anything he can do to minimize the points to avoid any insurance increases has worked for me many times. If you never get a hold of the officer, getting to your hearing early to speak with the him/her (politely) has worked for me as well. The rule of thumb is always be polite.

If you are getting arrested, be polite and keep your mouth shut and get a lawyer when you can.

Note, I don't have much sympathy for anyone who truly drives like a a-hole for no reason. But some of us have cars that are fun to drive, when the time is right of course.

IANAL, obviously, just my experience.

Basically, remember that since all cops are bastards, if you feed their egos enough (and are white) they will be more likely to let you off the hook for minor crimes in a toxic cronist sort of way.

1. Be polite.

2. Be white, if possible.

2a. If it is impossible or impractical for you to be white, instead use your "Sorry For Bothering You" "white voice".

3. Roll d100 and consult Table 22: Cop Bastardliness Levels, to determine difficulty classes for your Persuade and Bluff checks.

Good luck!

It's always best to just avoid all police encounters in the US. If you routinely drive in excess of posted limits, use radar detectors and crowdsourced speed trap warning apps. Tint your windows to the legal limit, and no darker. Ensure your signal lamps are all functional, and signal all turns and lane changes. Come to a full stop behind the line at all stop signs and red traffic lights. If you see a uniformed cop in public, do not approach. Be somewhere else, as quickly as you can manage, but without appearing too suspicious.

In any situation in which you might think it would be okay to deal with police directly, you're probably wrong, unless someone is literally in mortal peril already. Instead contact your lawyer, or security contractor, or insurance adjuster, or psychiatrist. In most cases, the police have no legal obligation to help you, and legally unchecked power to harm you, so why risk it?

…"has worked for me many times." Maybe consider being equally thoughtful about figuring out what you're doing to keep getting stopped by police and then maybe some equally detailed tactics about how to not.

> But some of us have cars that are fun to drive, when the time is right of course.

Not much mystery here. The alternative is track days at the local racing circuit, assuming such a thing exists near OP.

Your 100% may vary based on the color of your skin

> Note, I don't have much sympathy for anyone who truly drives like a a-hole for no reason. But some of us have cars that are fun to drive, when the time is right of course.

"It's not okay, unless you're having fun" is a pretty low bar

IANAL, but I'd be hesitant about doing a lot of reaching around and turning on lights & such. Better to wait to be told if the officers are nearby.

Note: Be very careful /how/ you invoke your right to counsel in the US:

> And when a suspect in an interrogation told detectives to "just give me a lawyer dog," the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that the suspect was, in fact, asking for a "lawyer dog," and not invoking his constitutional right to counsel.


Also key is that suspect kept on talking after asking for the lawyer.

This is roughly where I stand on it. Don't volunteer information to the police, but the original advice of basically yelling "AM I BEING DETAINED?!?" when the cop says "Hi" in passing on the street is only going to draw unwanted police attention to yourself.

Is it this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO7z4cHrcuY

It's from last year, and the description suggests it's not like you are saying. (I haven't watched it; it's an hour and a half long.)

That wasn't the one I was thinking of, but it's essentially the same. He is just less absolute about it.

Thanks for linking. Will watch later.

> PS. If you're guilty, I got nothing for you, no idea how to help you.

The same advice pertains.

    Get the best lawyer you can not afford
How do you know which lawyer is good?

For criminal defense, you want attorneys who used to work in the prosecutor's office. Top of the list is probably a partner, who used to be a DA in the same county they primarily practice in now, with 20+ years of total experience. But you're looking at mid-to-high 3 figures per hour.

Really it boils down to experience, and how likely that person is to have a relationship with the prosecutors, judges, and clerks where you have a problem.

If you are under a time crunch, it can be an issue. Sometimes you just need to hire someone who will do the basic leg work to buy you breathing room until you can find the right lawyer.

Contact your local bar association, they almost always have referral services.

Also in many jurisdictions you can find local advocacy groups that can provide referrals.

Any lawyer not overburdened by public defense cases should be an improvement.

If you know who your judge will be, but you don't have a lawyer yet, just go sit in their courtroom for a while watching the defenders. You want the one that everyone from the state says hello to, and laughs and jokes with. Even better if they have the same type of rapport with the judge. Follow them out when they're finished, and ask them for their card. (reiterated from my other reply)

Ask around, good lawyers typically have a reputation, as do bad ones. Just like with any other kind of specialist that you hire, years in the field, track record and references.

How do you "ask around" if you're in jail already, though?

It's probably the place where you'll find the highest concentration of people who had to deal with a lawyer!

Perhaps the sample is biased towards people who dealt with a bad lawyer, though.

Good question, that's outside of my area of expertise, but my assumption would be that the justice system would at least allow you to communicate with your - prospective - lawyers. If not then it's a lost battle before it has begun.

It didn't work out that way in my case. Prison/jail phone systems are a wreck. I wasn't able to contact my attorney and when I brought this up to the corrections officers, they said that I had no right to. Whether this was true or just the whim of guards who take inflicting abuse as a perk of the job, the end result was the same.

That's utterly disgusting.

"Tell me, Mr. Anderson, what good is a phone call when you are unable to speak?"

Actually other inmates would be a great resource for an attorney referral. You could joke, or think common sense, would say you don't want the same lawyer as anyone who has been convicted...but the reality is even the best criminal defense lawyers will lose. You will be able to find people who have been charged with similar crimes or find convicts who have previously been charged with similar crimes and got off, but are in for something else now.

A good idea is to keep a list of lawyers, attorneys and other "can-use" people handy. Having a close one have access to that list and your banking details can help as he'll make the calls.

Have friends/relatives you can depend on. It is almost the only way

"Asking around" is worthless as every case is different, even at a high level of "what law(s) are you accused of breaking, in what county are you accused, and are you guilty?" When you get into the specifics of facts, alibi, your personal reputation should you have to take the stand, etc, your precise case has never been argued before and will need a unique defense.

how many people can realistically pull $120,000 from friend and family _and_ expect to pay it all back?

Well, if I were your friend you'd be roughly halfway there, and if you couldn't pay back then I probably would not lose sleep over it. It depends on your friends, on your standing with them and possibly on who their friends are.

That said, the American legal system is totally fucked up and of course it should not take that kind of money to stay out of jail if you're innocent. The burden on society in the longer term is terrible, the burden on these individuals unforgivable. The fact that there are no penalties for prosecutors that wrongly convict, no proper compensation for time served and that prosecutors tend to do dick measuring contests based on their conviction rates doesn't help either.

Even if you can only pull $12,000 or even $1,200 ALMOST ANYTHING is better than relying on the public defender.

The public defender is overworked and understaffed. Having someone dedicated to you in the criminal justice system is a huge advantage--especially if you are guilty.

(As for being guilty, there are a lot of things that can land you with a felony that are far short of murder or armed robbery. Having a lawyer of your own can sometimes mean the difference between a felony that will haunt you forever versus a misdemeanor that can be expunged/erased/etc.)

> The public defender is overworked and understaffed. Having someone dedicated to you in the criminal justice system is a huge advantage--especially if you are guilty.

It's a real shame that the fate of an innocent person's life is determined by a system that's pay to win.

To think that you can lose a massive chunk or maybe even your entire adult life for being falsely accused because your public defender is in a bad mood or doesn't have enough time to look into your case is total insanity.

It's how the system is intentionally designed. It's how people want it. They want high conviction rates and a 'tough on crime' attitude and don't really care much about truth or justice at all, especially if the accused is poor and doubly especially if they're also black.

That attitude really backfires when they are the ones wrongly accused, heh

They are white and rich. That system doesn't apply to them, by design.

The only time I really remember someone rich and famous going to jail was when Wesley Snipes tried to avoid paying income tax.

And I feel like that was more to send a message out to the general public that it doesn't matter how much money you have, if you try to evade taxes you will get thrown in jail. It wasn't so much a personal case where a good lawyer could get you out of having your only life ruined.

Then again, I don't watch the news or follow politics at all. In any case, it's messed up that money drives something as important as your freedom to live your life.

Wesley Snipes also made the bad decision to not be white.

It really is so much worse than most people realize. I was in a courtroom where around 20 county jail inmates (innocent until proven guilty) were shackled together with leg chains and handcuffs while two public defenders (whom none of those accused had ever met before) stood before them and explained that they were their lawyers and then spent a whole five minutes explaining that they had better just plead guilty because if they don't and lose in trial they will get at least twice as much time as the plea deal. I saw this more than once.

Taking the public defender option is basically an admission of guilt. You aren't even trying to defend yourself really.

Yes, being poor makes you automatically guilty.

You can actually do much worse than a public defender. Calling e.g. a lawyer who works for a "mill" (like those guys who advertise on TV, in my hometown it's Kerry Steigerwalt -- who makes a living pleading out DUI's with the least amount of effort possible, but would take your murder case without asking) will get you a guy who is just as overworked and understaffed as the PD, but unlike the PD, does not care about justice at all, only making money. They will do anything that results in a reduction in their workload, even if it means years in prison for you.

At least with the public defender's office you get someone who gives a shit, even if they are overworked.

More importantly - if you get falsely accused, shell out 120k, then what? Courts can still decide that everyone pays their own legal expenses... sounds like falsely accusing someone is enough to ruin them financially.

> how many people can realistically pull $120,000 from friend and family _and_ expect to pay it all back?

Taking everything said at face value, you pay 120k for 6 years in the job market. That's 20k a year, without interest.

edit: please don't read this as an "oh, only 20k a year" comment. My intention was just to make the number approachable by connecting it to the given return.

In the same way one would explain unreasonably high college expenses.

On top of all other typical expenses and obligations, that's effectively a respectable mortgage that most households in the US[1] likely wouldn't be able to afford. It's a pretty ridiculous financial burden to shoulder for anyone who isn't in roughly the top 10th-percentile income bracket.

[1] https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-26...

Keep in mind that in the us the median income per capita is less than 32k. It's hard to save 20k a years on that kind of revenues.

That's more than half of some (most?) peoples' salary.

Try getting a high paying job with a criminal record. Even if you were acquitted.

And going to trial with an expensive lawyer is not guarantee of success. You may have an actual criminal record and years in jail before you can begin to pay that back.

Somewhere I got the impression there was a rule that the losing side had to pay the attorney fees of the winning side, possibly as a way to prevent frivolous lawsuits. Is this not a thing?

If it isn't, damn. I hope I never have the misfortune of somebody falsely accusing me in such a manner that the accusation alone wipes $120k from my pockets.

That is for civil cases. Criminal cases are prosecuted by the state so you are on your own with your lawyer's fees. And good luck paying them off with the $0.04/hour you earn doing prison labor.

That's cheap compared to Family Law.

Iirc for some offenses/crimes that payment is automatic and for some it has to be ordered by the judge.

It is really important to retain an expert criminal defense lawyer. The family of a person accused of attempted murder retained a lawyer that they used for other civil and business matters. The accused was found guilty, almost certainly wrongly, spent several years in prison and will never be able to resume their profession.

Videos in here are very educational about how investigating cops go about doing their work: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYwVxWpjeKFWwu8TML-Te9A/vid...

> Never ever ever ever talk to the cops. Retain your right for silence.

Don't sit silent. Tell them, "I don't understand my legal rights in this situation so I wish to retain counsel before we talk further." Just repeat that as necessary.

Just to amplify the point, seriously guilty or not do not talk to the police.


> 3. Never ever ever ever talk to the cops.

Requisite video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-7o9xYp7eE

Always exercise your Miranda Rights.

> PS. If you're guilty, I got nothing for you, no idea how to help you.

Hate to sound like a dirtbag, but your advice also applies here.

Pretty good mindset advice for divorce as well. There is no justice, and being "in the right" is utterly useless.

If you actually manage to clobber your spouse in the proceedings, you can always write them a check later to fix your conscience. If they clobber you, there will be no mercy.


I don't think that's what the OP meant though. I read that as the OP did not want to get into a situation of trying to give advice to a known/admitted guilty party.

The irony in my eyes is that everything OP said applies to someone who is genuinely guilty. Furthermore, for all we know, all defendants could be genuinely guilty (icluding OP), because of the incomplete information we have of the world. That's the nature of the knowledge we have of others, and justice process in general. OP pointed this out, in not so many words, but then finished by saying [paraphrasing] "don't seek my advice if you're really guilty". I enjoy the irony in that, and I empathize with the dissonance.

> When you're innocent you think that your innocence means something. It doesn't. Discount it and move on. ... If you're guilty ... no idea how to help you.

Not sure how to read that. Is this consistent?

I'm not trying to bait or anything. Judicial institutions aren't about some objective truth somewhere out in the universe. Best case scenario is that their processes provide stability. (The nice, good governance kind of stability, therefore creating legitimacy, being predictable etc.)

I can therefore fully understand the first part. No idea why they chose to return to the question of guilt again later in their comment.

It wouldn't change a thing in the usefulness of their advice.

You know the stories of criminals who have been arrested multiple times, convicted a few times, but are not jail? The reason is that for the most part guilty people, knowing they are guilty, will hide things. They will naturally avoid giving the police anything that can be construed to point to them being guilty.

An innocent person on the other hand, knowing they are innocent, will just talk. They will speak only looking at what they say in the best light. They will not realize that everything they say is going to be construed by the police to fit their theory of the crime. This is why it is important for an innocent person to think like a guilty person during their interactions with the police.

I think that the advice is that just because you know you are innocent that is not enough, they will still assume you are guilty (regardless of innocent until proven guilty) and that you need to come at it from the point of how can I change their mind from me being guilty to me being innocent.

Imagine you are innocent and you naively believe they can't convict you because you know you are innocent. There is no device to test for innocence so in the end it is not that hard or impossible to end up in jail even when you are innocent.

There is no inconsistency there. The first part is about how an individual that knows that they are innocent should not expect that to count for anything in the eyes of others.

The second part is to ensure that he doesn't waste his time on people that are really guilty because in the end that will go nowhere. Just like the innocence project has pre-screening to ensure they are not wasting their time.

> The first part is about how an individual that knows that they are innocent should not expect that to count for anything in the eyes of others. The second part is to ensure that he doesn't waste his time on people that are really guilty because in the end that will go nowhere.

Again, I think this is inconsistent. The original comment author is bound to be one of those third parties where objective innocence does not matter.

But if it "will go nowhere" as soon as objective innocence isn't a given, it does apparently matter.

Now does it, or doesn't it matter?

I think you've been adequately answered more than once in this thread, if you insist that that is not the case then I would assume that you have your mind made up and further discourse is not productive. That's not me trying to be rude, just an observation.

Oh, okay. Now that's quite an unexpected response to get here.

Nothing can have both an effect and not an effect at the same time. It's a logical error and reformulating this same error is not a fix.

I will try. As soon as "objective innocence isn't a given", the prosecutor will be able to produce true evidence to prove you guilty (not always, but mostly). Thus "will go nowhere". If "objective innocence" is given, the prosecutor, by definition, can't provide true evidence to prove you guilty. So they need help to hold up their fake case, and one way to provide help for that is acting like an ingenuous innocent who thinks nothing can happen to them because they are innocent.

I thought exactly the same thing so I'm curious why people are downvoting you. I think saying both those things is logically inconsistent.

Edit: especially in a jury-based system it seems like it doesn't matter whether you're guilty or not, but whether the jury believes your story. In addition, many (most?) people who commit crimes do not necessarily think of themselves as criminals, though admittedly I got forgot from which source I got this.

Edit2: bottom line: why would influencing a jury suddenly stop working when you're guilty.

> Edit: especially in a jury-based system it seems like it doesn't matter whether you're guilty or not, but whether the jury believes your story.

The US is not a jury-based system, but a plea-bargain-based system. Over over 94% of cases never go in front of a jury. [1] And while theoretically you can insist on your case going to trial, a few things will happen to you:

1. Your public defender will do everything possible to discourage you, because they don't have the resources to take you to trial.

2. As a consequence of not having resources, they will in fact be correct in discouraging you.

3. The prosecutor will charge you with far more counts, and a potential sentence that is much higher than what you'll get in a plea deal.

Note that the extra counts don't need to be provable. What they do is two things:

1. Add to your defense burden.

2. Put intense psychological pressure ("If I take this felony deal I get five years, but I might get TWENTY FIVE if I take this to trial and lose.")

If you can afford a good lawyer, the plea deal calculus works better, of course, since you now have a credible threat of taking a bad case to court and demolishing the prosecutor.

[1]: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/us/stronger-hand-for-judg...

I can’t see how plea deals are anything other than an an in humane way to make the prosecutors look successful while also giving the private prison complex a boost.

You know, they’re doing you a ‘favour’ by avoiding the trial so long as you accept guilt.

In a perfectly functioning system, they give obviously guilty offenders a more lenient sentence in exchange for admitting guilt.

laughs hysterically

In the real world, of course, they are used to throw the book at people with no ability to defend themselves.

In a perfectly functioning system there is no concept of an obviously guilty offender because an obviously guilty offender cannot exist, because 'obvious' does not exist.

The only circumstance that holds true is if you get a legit confession. But that confession still has to be fact-checked.

As for the rest, you cannot in any circumstance be obviously guilty unless you were an accomplice to that fact or you were captured after the fact. You would have to read minds to throw away the presumption of innocence, and even in those seemingly obvious circumstances there may be something else going on. So we have the trials.

Plea deals are exactly that - deals between you and the state to go to jail so you might not go to jail longer. They're not doing you a favour, because they have all the authority.

> why would influencing a jury suddenly stop working when you're guilty.

One would hope it would be easier to be found innocent when you are innocent - easier to produce evidence and proof of things that are true, and to produce convincingly honest testimony when you were being honest.

But the initial point was explicitly that innocence doesn't matter. I understand GPs confusion.

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