Is there an intelligent alternative to lying or telling the truth that we have not yet examined? Yes. In our hypothetical interview, you can politely decline to be interviewed by the FBI agent. Tell the agent that you have an attorney and that "my attorney will be in contact with you." If the agent persists, say that you will not discuss anything without first consulting counsel. Ask for the agent's card, to give to your attorney. If you have not yet hired a lawyer, tell the agent that "I want to consult a lawyer first" or that "an attorney will be in touch with you." The absolutely essential thing to keep in mind is to say nothing of substance about the matter under investigation. It is preferable to do this by politely declining to be interviewed in the absence of counsel. If the agent asks "why do you need an attorney?" or "what do you have to hide?" do not take his bait and directly respond to such questions. (Do not even say that you have nothing to hide.) Simply state that you will not discuss the matter at all without first consulting counsel and that counsel will be in touch with him. If the agent asks for a commitment from you to speak with him after you have consulted or retained counsel, do not oblige him. Just respond that you will consult with your attorney (or "an" attorney) and that the attorney will be in touch. And by all means do not get bullied or panicked into making up a phony reason for refusing to talk. You are not obliged to explain your decision to anyone.
“It is crucial to note that affirmatively declining to discuss the investigation in the absence of counsel is not the same thing as remaining completely silent. If you are not in custody, your total silence, especially in the face of an accusation, can very possibly be used against you as an adoptive admission under the Federal Rules of Evidence.
Your invocation of counsel, however, cannot be used against you at trial. United States v. McDonald , 620 F.2d 559, 561-64 (5th Cir. 1980). Your refusal to talk substance in the absence of counsel will force the prosecutor to decide whether your information is important enough to justify a grand jury subpoena for your testimony.
If the prosecutor responds to your declination by serving you with a grand jury subpoena, this will present you with an interesting range of options such as: 1) testifying; 2) refusing to testify, by invoking the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, which broadly applies to anyone , innocent or guilty, facing criminal exposure; 3) testifying (or talking to the government) only after receiving a grant of immunity; or 4) proffering to the government–that is, giving them a sneak preview of what you will tell them if they agree to grant you immunity. The important thing to remember is that declining to speak to the agent in the first place buys you time in which to weigh these alternative strategies with your white-collar criminal defense attorney.”
There are no downsides when you decline to talk, it gives you time to take a more considered approach and you can avoid errors you might make in the heat of the moment (when you are most likely stressed and maybe even panicked).
I will always decline answering questions, no matter the situation. There might be situations where talking is unproblematic but I don’t want to make that decision on the spot and when I’m stressed. I doubt my abilities to make right decisions in those situations. That’s why I made that decision now, and it’s to take the safest route: I decline.
That's what ought to keep people awake at night.
else if ... 5 months jail
else if ... capital punishment
else if ... licence suspended
else if ... 3 years jail, 20000 dollar fine
// handle a few million more cases
else you're innocent
In other news, barbers believe that everyone needs a haircut immediately.
(Both are the FUD sale. Lawyers employ it regularly, so get used to it.)
" GOOD is AARON SWARTZ’s attorney in Boston, MA. GOOD wanted assurance that if SWARTZ was interviewed, what he said would not be used to jeopardize him. SA [REDACTED] explained that assurance could not be given but that we were in an information gathering phase. GOOD refused the interview without the assurance.
April 20, Washington Field Office:
CASE ID #: 288A-WF-238943 (Closed)"
Washing your hair every day puts more wear and tear on it, and it's time consuming. If you have short hair, you get away with this because you keep cutting your hair long before it gets worn out. So only once or twice a week will I actually wash my hair (and use conditioner, this actually becomes important with long hair). Most days, I tie it up into a bun before showering so it doesn't get wet. You might be able to find another solution. Depending on your water quality, your hair might smell gross if you just get it wet without washing or at least conditioning it.
After showering, I generally brush my hair, especially after washing it or if I want my hair down. If I'm in a hurry or it doesn't look good loose, I just tie it back in a ponytail. There is literally nothing else you have to do to make it look presentable. After a certain length it doesn't really get in your face unless it's especially windy or something. If you want it loose during some sort of physical activity, I've noticed a lot of longhaired footballers will wear a thin black hairband around the base of the skull and the hairline--if you do an image search for Leo Messi or Didier Drogba I'm sure you'll see what I mean.
Human hair actually stops growing at a certain point, or to be more precise it grows at the same rate that it gradually falls out over time leaving you with a consistent terminal length. Mine seems to be around the small of my back.
As you grow it out between an ordinary short hairstyle and shoulder length, you're likely to look kind of strange for awhile, and have no good way of managing your hair. On male longhair web forums, this period is usually referred to as "the awkward phase". You might be tempted to get haircuts so you can at least have a decent medium length style at this point, but really that only makes the awkward phase take longer. From a short hairstyle to shoulder length usually takes within 2 years, but only the middle part of that is likely to be too awkward. From short to shaggy it just kind of looks shaggy, and from almost-shoulder-length to shoulder length it just looks increasingly awesome, but there's a bit of an awkward gap between "nice and shaggy" and "almost shoulder length" where you can't tie it back, you can't quite keep it all tucked behind your ears, and it gets in your face.
One last point--I suspect my hair is naturally very attractive, so I'm certainly not going to guarantee that women will approach you on the street and say they're jealous of your hair if you grow it out. Generally, most styling and hair care above and beyond not cutting it, washing it, conditioning it, and brushing it does more harm than good in the long run. The whole point about barbers saying everyone needs a haircut rings very literally true--hairstylists and hairdressers will suggest a variety of treatments, products, chemicals, cuts, and other solutions to often completely imaginary, self-solving problems like split ends, based upon completely fictional notions about the physiology of hair.
And that is certainly more than I ever thought I'd have to say about hair on Hacker News.
self-solving problems like split ends
Could you explain that? I though split ends forced to cut one's long hair regularly.
Whilst I understand the principle, I'm not sure I 100% agree with this statement. I've been in a few situations in the past - demos/football matches etc - where declining to talk would quite likely have resulted in me being detained for questioning (and in some of those cases, for others who tried this approach, this was exactly what happened), but a polite answer to the cops resulted in them simply leaving me alone.
It's true that had the cops decided to nick me anyway, then anything I said could well have resulted in bigger problems than if I'd kept quite. But they didn't.
In my view, there are quite definitely some downsides to refusing to talk, but they are far lower than the downsides could be by talking.
Doesn't the highlighted section actually note that silence can be used against you? It would seem you need to decline to talk and request counsel, if I understood correctly.
Whether we want to admit it or not: It's ingrained that you are inviting an investigator to hassle you further by invoking a right to counsel. (For the record: I think that sucks too.)
Conversely: Even if you're a dishonest crook, you get the feds off your back by omitting a lawyer.
This is not how it should be; It is how it is.
(Madoff wasn't caught when the SEC first investigated because they thought he was front-running orders, not a giant Ponzi scheme. They were looking for the wrong thing.)
That's the crucial point.
That is exactly the point. Nobody shows up with a lawyer because they want transparency above and beyond the call of duty.
Investigators will take the need for a lawyer as having something to hide. Arriving without a lawyer says the opposite.
But apparently several posters above don't believe so.
If you have done something wrong (again, whether you know it or not), you'll likely have a better outcome with a lawyer present from the start that without.
But if you actually haven't done anything wrong, the lawyer can still help you avoid accidentally telling a "lie" or getting yourself into a situation you don't know how to handle. Even if the investigators believe you're hiding something just because you lawyered up, if you genuinely did nothing wrong, there's not much they can do... aside from making up evidence and framing you, or believing unreliable witnesses telling lies about you... which could happen in any case.
The bottom line (as stated in the article) is that you are not qualified to know whether or not you have or have not truly done anything illegal. A lawyer will be much better able to help you make that determination and guide your interaction with the authorities for your benefit.
Got a source for that?
It falls a bit short of backing up the claim "[e]veryone thought he had nothing to hide", but it's along those lines.
I need one because it was important enough put in the Constitution. What have you got against the Constitution?
A Hispanic former coworker of mine was wrongfully arrested then beaten with phone books by some thugs at the Toronto police. He got lucky, it was a case of mistaken identity and even though they found a small amount of weed on him they let him go completely and he was given a card with a cops phone number on it. He has had to use it 3 times since.
He's an apprentice tradesman and lives in a poor area of Toronto so when I told him to sue, he said "Sue? For what? Damages? I've been beaten up worse before by the people they're trying to catch. I live in a bad neighborhood and the officer who gave me his car and I have an understanding now."
Pretty messed up. When you don't look or sound like the people that know these little loopholes in the system you get to deal with what I consider to be a couple steps up from a mob. Some of them are awesome, for example cops have helped me get out of a snow bank before and didn't write me up for a driving infraction. Some of them are generally nice and will smile at you on the street or laugh with you as they give you a ticket, but they have power and some of them, especially those that have to deal with messed up shit in the ghettos abuse it.
Critical system failure. There should be red lights blinking and klaxons wailing.
I'm not defending the ridiculously complicated U.S. Code but, even if it was much simpler, there is no way you can honestly say, "I know I did nothing illegal."
(Took me years to comprehend just NY weapons laws.)
Ignorance of the law is the norm. When the laws one is subject to can be measured in cubic yards, something is awry. Contrast with the entire US Constitution fitting on one piece of paper.
"The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague. In Three Felonies a Day, Harvey A. Silverglate reveals how federal criminal laws have become dangerously disconnected from the English common law tradition and how prosecutors can pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us, for even the most seemingly innocuous behavior. The volume of federal crimes in recent decades has increased well beyond the statute books and into the morass of the Code of Federal Regulations, handing federal prosecutors an additional trove of vague and exceedingly complex and technical prohibitions to stick on their hapless targets. The dangers spelled out in Three Felonies a Day do not apply solely to “white collar criminals,” state and local politicians, and professionals. No social class or profession is safe from this troubling form of social control by the executive branch..."
I am in law school right now, and the first thing I learned is how little I know, the second is how little I will know about the entirety of the law when I graduate.
More recently I started realizing how quickly even law professors and experienced lawyers will plead ignorance (or at least state they need time for research) when you ask questions even slightly outside their specialty.
People who graduate from law school but who do not become licensed to practiced are referred to as "law graduates" or "JDs" (after the degree).
Since you typically have nothing to gain by talking to law enforcement, why would you? It's all downside.
Remember, "Don't Talk to Cops": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8z7NC5sgik
Everyone else is cooperative, but I'm not.
I've now drawn attention to myself and am probably going to be in for a lot of scrutiny, and at some risk for getting into trouble even if I had nothing to do with the girl's disappearance.
All could have been avoided by saying "I'll have my attorney contact you" and later he contacts them with the message "Mr. TZS knows nothing about this case as far as he knows."
If I were to take your suggestion and avoid the initial question by having my attorney answer it--nothing changes because they still have the security video showing I saw the girl, so now they will just think I'm lying through my attorney install of lying directly, and I'm still going to end up getting brought in for questioning and possibly have my house searched.
you seems to miss the point of getting an attorney.
Presumably the comparison of what you say vs. what the video camera shows will happen after when you talk (plus if they know you've seen her their approach to you is likely to be different).
You lawyer will presumably know how word your statements so they are both true and won't get you caught in this sort of scenario. I'm not sure what works for real, but think of the difference between the statements "I didn't see her" and "I don't recall seeing her." Both say the same thing, but the former is obviously more dangerous.
Again, it comes down to the question of "What's in for you?" Nowadays there's pretty much nothing but downsides for you with no upside aside from the occasional situation where saying something will avoid your getting taken in for questioning or worse.
This is something that comes up a lot in the concealed carry/self defense community. Missouri requires a thorough 8 hour course to get a license and the one I attended was taught entirely by police, most or all of them still active in one way or another. Their advice, and they said they didn't like saying this---and I'll note SW Missouri is very favorably inclined towards legitimate self-defense---was that you shouldn't talk to them but retain a lawyer and speak through him.
I do agree that in cases like that, you will make it harder for yourself if the police stop and ask you and you refuse to say anything. I think the talk linked refers more to people who are considered potential suspects rather than witnesses.
What everyone else is doing doesn't matter. You can't talk your way out of being investigated.
care to elaborate how your talking would help then?
Being the only person who won't make such a simple statement is practically shouting out "INVESTIGATE ME! I SHOULD BE A MAIN SUSPECT!". At the very least that will lead to considerable hassle and expense.
Whenever this comes up on HN, I find the pattern of comments to be a little baffling, in that very few people want to acknowledge that there are significant downsides to this.
One that isn't mentioned is that, frankly, I don't trust cops nearly as much as you'all seem to. I've been in dodgy situations with cops. I've been pulled over by cops on a dark, out of the way road, and it made me nervous. There is zero chance I'm not cooperating with him as much as I can under those circumstances.
I would never pull over on a "dark, out of the way road".
> Mary Ann Viverette, the President of the International Association of Cheifs of Police [...] but she also thinks Karen was smart to follow her instincts in that situation.
As an aside, it would also help the investigators, by not distracting them with irrelevant suspicious behavior.
>As an aside, it would also help the investigators, by not distracting them with irrelevant suspicious behavior.
and that too.
What you really need to weigh it against is the fact that you don't want crimes to happen in your community. I think the thing to do is pay attention, and as soon as they seem to go from talking to you as a witness to interrogating you as a suspect, shut the fuck up. If you are a suspect, they might start off treating you as a witness so you lower your guard. Don't lower your guard, be careful to only make true statements ("I don't recall X" is always better than "I didn't do X" or "I didn't see X").
From personal experience, being questioned by police is very, very draining and difficult, especially when you are innocent. And they're assholes when they question you.
For that matter, what advantage is there for you to assume any differently? (tip: there is none.)
Who is running society?
Half my reason for asking is to be a smart-ass, but the other half is to ponder:
Might the problem be that somebody or some group thinks they have (a) the authority, (b) the ability, and (c) the necessary information, to run our lives?
Personally, I like the idea of anarchy in an attempt to get the best society possible even if it results in a less perfect one in practice.
I don't know how this can be fixed though. At the moment we have to rely on judges to save us from the precision of the law, and we all know that judges can be just as corrupt/resentful/bored/petty as the rest of us.
I think (although have no data) that there are probably more laws requiring human judgment than are based on strictly numerical criteria. Off the top of my head, the various degrees of murder, perjury, hate crimes, divorce settlements, and probate court. These all may have very specific criteria to meet them, but there is no way an algorithm could determine innocence or guilt.
The only numerical laws I can think of are speed limits and the lines between grand theft / theft.
That doesn't mean a thing.
I'm having enough trouble finding good engineers, and that is something that I am qualified to do, as well as able to spend several months on, under very little pressure.
I have very little experience with lawyers, but at least for corporate lawyers, my impression is that the average lawyer doesn't know everything about their field, just like the average programmer doesn't know everything about their field. I wonder how many of these pitfalls are something that an average lawyer wouldn't know to avoid.
Now when you need a specialty attorney at short notice because you've been arrested for murder or are being sued for patent infringement you ask your trusted attorney for a recommendation. The recommendation will go to a good attorney and not the fly by night shyster that advertises at 2AM on the local TV station. This attorney may be extremely expensive of course, but this is how I have found specialty lawyers at short notice. It is critical you have a trusted attorney that you have a relationship with though, otherwise you risk ending up flipping through the phone book at the jail some day.
It's not possible to just pick a good one randomly the first time yourself except when you are lucky. However, it's not any more difficult than getting a good mechanic, which is why I keep using that analogy.
I should mention that when in a new town do not trust recommendations made by others who are not professionals who work in the system as peers. Others will recommend their friends or relatives, or someone that helped someone they know in a bind once. This is very different from the high respect of an honorable peer, which is why you want a good attorney to be recommending the specialty lawyer and not your coworker, pastor, or waitress.
Consider the $800-$1500 you'll spend on a routine living trust a down payment on a good lawyer.
There seem to be at least a couple of companies that offer legal services insurance, but it's difficult to tell from their sites if they cover criminal/potential criminal interview services under the circumstances described in the article.
I also have no idea what sort of price you'd expect to pay.
The ARAG Legal Calculator suggests ~$5k for a misdemeanor, but they've got something of a conflict of interest in quoting prices. Their stat of $283/hr average seems to be sourced though.
I think there are some free(ish) options, the UK has Legal Aid, and I think in the US there's some Public Defender provisions (although you might have to be already under arrest for that to apply).
I'd imagine there's definitely some sort of market opportunity for connecting people to competent legal advisors quickly. Ideally something usable with your "one phonecall".
 "Average attorney rate in the United States of $284 per hour for attorneys with 11 to 15 years of experience, Survey of Law Firm Economics, Incisive Legal Intelligence, July, 2009."
The test looks at assets and income, ignoring liabilities (except for necessary ongoing medical expenses).
However, I just assumed I was being too cynical.
Is there anything in the law that makes the "pursuant to some regulatory duty" relevant here? For example, if you wrote something on Wikipedia that you knew was inaccurate, and years later a federal official read it and found it somehow relevant to his job, would you theoretically be breaking this law?
What most armchair lawyers forget (or never learned) is that intent is a fundemental element for any crime involving more than token (i.e., small fine) punishment. In the example above, if you don't intend to defraud the federal government when lying to your lawyer, it's not a crime.
Said in Parliament as otherwise it could be considered defamation (ie -- The priest has not been proven guilty in a court)
In March 2009, still unsatisfied, Mr. Nordlander persuaded his superiors to send an attractive female undercover agent, Ellen Burrows, to meet Mr. Engle and see if she could get him to say something incriminating. In the course of several flirtatious encounters, she asked him about his investments.
After acknowledging that he had been speculating in real estate during the bubble to help support his running, he said, according to Mr. Nordlander’s grand jury testimony, “I had a couple of good liar loans out there, you know, which my mortgage broker didn’t mind writing down, you know, that I was making four hundred thousand grand a year when he knew I wasn’t.”
Mr. Engle added, “Everybody was doing it because it was simply the way it was done. That doesn’t make me proud of the fact that I am at least a small part of the problem.”
Unbeknownst to Mr. Engle, Ms. Burrows was wearing a wire.
This advice is best when one is implicated or thinks there's any chance they'd be implicated...but then anyone with the slightest awareness of the legal system learns about this at a pretty young age. This particular advice gets its sensationalism and counterintuitiveness by claiming that it's a universal rule. As a universal rule, it has its downsides.
One downside is that, if everyone does this, we make it far harder for law enforcement to do worthwhile investigations. Programmers hate when roadblocks prevent us from iterating quickly during development. Understand, other occupations also suffer from the same crunch on their time that we do and, as a community that's all in this together, we benefit from their work.
Another downside is promoting an adversarial role between law enforcement and its citizenry. This is an intangible, but I think its costs are real.
Also, you'd better be very confident that the cop(s) will simply respect your rights under the law. I know of situations where that has not been the case. I've seen videos where it wasn't the case. We've all read stories where it wasn't the case.
It's easy to fantasize stories about you being wrongfully singled out or, heaven forbid, convicted. We've also all read stories about that. Just like everything in life, then, it's a cost/benefits analysis. But don't pretend that one choice is all benefits and no costs.
I think the speed of modern news dissemination is warping our risk assessment software. Things that you'd only hear of rarely are reported several times a day now, because there's 6 billion people having bad things happen to them, the news only cares about those bad things, and our attention for those bad things is the same size as ever. The bad things per attention minute is rising all the time. Partly because of this, and partly because we are the way we are, there's a penchant by some in my geeky, libertarian community to withdraw as citizens, and overestimate downside risk. Yes, you expose yourself to risk by rescuing that drowning man; yes, you expose yourself to risk by finding that lost girl's mom; yes, you expose yourself to risk by cooperating with authorities. And, you know what, I think it should be worth it to you.
As a side note, attorneys are very familiar with the system and feel confident about fighting it head on, and many attorneys are willing to lead a high stress, confrontational life style. One should bear that in mind when taking advice about how to lead one's life.
This is caused by law enforcement/state prosecutors taking an adversarial role against citizens, not citizens responding in kind.
It's like the classical prisoner's dilemma. Yes, it would be better for all involved if everyone chose to co-operate. But when one side persistently takes the adversarial approach, it would be stupid for the other side not to do the same.
> As a side note, attorneys are very familiar with the system and feel confident about fighting it head on, and many attorneys are willing to lead a high stress, confrontational life style.
This is, in fact, why you should always talk to an attorney when it comes to dealing with law enforcement.
Furthermore perjury requires the act to be willful and the item under question to be of material importance to an investigation. This law requires only that the statement be known by the speaker to be incorrect and however trivial.
Could I be convicted under this law?
Edit: Never mind. It has a complicate ownership, as a US government-owned corporation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Postal_Service
What the discussion on HN ignores (and which the article touches upon but glosses over) is that the lie (about hours) is repeated to a federal agent during an investigation or on court. The repetition is the illegal act.
I am a lawyer...and I would really love it if the armchair laywers on HN would stop spreading FUD.
For me, the "todos in this case" are just a cure for a dead man, because if you cannot trust the authorities anymore the basic assumptions of a working judiciary system are broken.
EDIT. This response is getting so many upvotes I'm going to clarify it a bit, particularly for people who may be reading this from other countries:
Yes, you can start and run a business in America without ever having direct interaction with the US Federal Government, other than mailing off your taxes. It's not like every business one day gets a visit from the KGB and they tell you to do things a certain way (or else).
Nevertheless, if you are for example an ISP or provide messaging, as you grow big enough it's probably a matter of time before you'll end up getting a subscriber who's being investigated. You may have a former employee that goes on to apply for some sort of special security clearance and they follow up on his background (or you go out of your way to hire a talented hacker with a mysterious background). You may simply meet such agents due to ordinary shared interests, like say at a trade show or a conference.
Of course, you could also meet them when they are also actually investigating something with the aim of prosecuting people.
I don't know which of these situations fall under the law described in the article, possibly all of them do.
That is not what Hacker News is for. If your company is that big, you should have counsel on retainer, and they should be advising you of the proper behavior in the face of potential federal investigation. Moreover, it's our job as American citizens to be aware of our legal exposure and to know the proper way to proceed. It's a shame that this is not taught in our high school Government courses.
It is not the role of Hacker News to educate us on these issues. There are other sites for that. You can tell by the quality of the comment thread that it's not something that appeals to "our inner hacker." An article is not HN material simply by appealing to some (or even a majority) of the members here; it must satisfy other criteria, and this one does not.
Hacker News is not a funnel for good Reddit submissions. It has a different focus. This article is US-specific, transient, and not intellectually stimulating. It does not belong here, so I flagged it.
I'm glad I read the article, so thanks for that. I was just surprised by how hard jsdalton got downvoted when he was right. It indicated to me a mismatch between what HN is "supposed" to be and what the commenters/voters here think it should be.
I thought it was off topic:
> Off-Topic: Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon. Videos of pratfalls or disasters, or cute animal pictures. If they'd cover it on TV news, it's probably off-topic.
But that's just my opinion. Apologies for adding to the noise.
I generally dislike this sort of meta-discussion on HN. I believe the guidelines have something to say about this, as well: if you disagree with a posting, don't comment about it, just flag it and move on. Adding a comment saying "this doesn't belong on HN" does not at all add to the discussion. That is why I (and many others) will downvote you for your initial comment. It's not because we disagree, it's because the comment is extraneous noise.
 I consider this to be undebatable. This is exactly the kind of submission pg wanted to avoid when he discouraged politics. See http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=196547
 Just to redeem this post, the following code calculated this:
import re, urllib2
from BeautifulSoup import BeautifulSoup
pg = BeautifulSoup(urllib2.urlopen("http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3005365"))
user_re = re.compile(r'^user\?id=(.*)$')
users = set(user_link.string for user_link in pg.findAll('a', href=user_re))
created_days_ago = 0
# Some error-handling code omitted for conciseness
for user in users:
profile = BeautifulSoup(urllib2.urlopen("http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=" + user))
created = int(profile.find(text="created:").parent.nextSibling.string.split(None, 1))
created_ago_days += created
print created_ago_days / float(len(users)) # printed 624.666666667