Three dumb things people say to the police… all the time.

So, you’re sitting in my office and you’re mad that you got a ticket or were arrested for DUI or are charged with murder. You’re going to fight this thing all the way. You’re mad.  They never read your your rights.  They never showed you the radar.  If they didn’t do that, you must be “not” guilty, right?

For whatever reason, there seem to be a large number of people who, between the time they’ve last talked to the cops and the time they walk into my door, have convinced themselves they’re not guilty.  That’s just fine.  If you want to take the best shot at winning at trial, though, there are some things you probably said to the police that you shouldn’t have.  Those things are going to make it really hard for a judge or jury to see just how not guilty you really are:

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When the police first pulled you over or started to talk to you: “Yes”.

Do you know how fast you were going? “Yes.”  Do you know why we’re at your house with this warrant looking for a dead body? “Yes.” Do you have any idea why the neighbor says you were swimming naked in his pool at night and creeping out the entire neighborhood? “Yes.”

When the police ask those initial questions, they obviously know something. They’re not going to tell you what it is, but they’re going to try to get you to talk about it. After all, you may “know things only the killer would know.”  If you answer “yes” to any of these initial questions, it’s going to start a dialogue- a dialogue that’s only going to get harder to stop.

Probably the only worse answer than “yes” would be to lie.  Like, telling an officer at a traffic stop that you were going 47 when his radar says you were going 89.  Lies are either going to frustrate the officer or (in a more serious case) make you look even more guilty when you’re busted.

A better thing might be to say, “I’d like to talk to a lawyer before I answer any of your questions.”  Nobody seems to ever believe me on that, though. It’s sort-of a free country, I suppose.  You go ahead and do what you want.

When they want to search: “Yes”

When it comes to car searches, this is almost always a follow-up to “do you have anything you shouldn’t in the car?”  Of course, if that’s what happened you must have skipped the section above and either lied (hoping he’s not smart enough to know all the drugs are “hidden” in the trunk of your Chevy Vega), or answered “yes”.

So, now he wants to take a look. He’s asking you, and you don’t want to “look guilty” so you’re going to let him search.

Look, I know it seems a bit extreme, but no police officer is ever searching my car, house, body or other property with my consent. I have nothing to hide- just like you (except for those apples you’re illegally smuggling into Canada), but my stuff is nobody’s business and I don’t care how they think that makes me look.  I’d be somewhat offended if they even asked.

Getting sucked into “not wanting to look guilty” is the best way to look absolutely guilty. Nothing says “this guy is probably guilty” like the weed the cop found in your pocket or the headless corpse in your crawl space.

If they ever ask to search, you can always tell them you’d like to talk to a lawyer about it first. Just saying.

When the police are interrogating you: “Yes”

You’re in some small room at the police station. The room is simple, without decor or anything but a small table and some chairs.  There’s one cop- maybe two.  They’ve read you your rights, and they’re asking you questions.  They want to know how long you had “beef” with the guy who was just found stuffed in the back of a burned-out AMC Gremlin down by the river.  “You’ve hated this guy since before that day at the Bieber concert, right?” They ask.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nq3FHm6DZ0

Wait a minute. You’re in custody.  They read you your rights. They just told you that you had a right to an attorney.  They told you that they’d get you one before any questioning.

Now you’e sitting there, without having talked to a lawyer, and you’re about to agree that you didn’t like some guy that they found dead?

Brilliant idea, Einstein.  Especially if you didn’t kill the guy (or if you’re going to tell your lawyer you didn’t, anyway).

Just another crazy thought, but if you’re planning to contest the charges and try to avoid spending the rest of your life in prison, it might make sense to talk to a lawyer first. Probably.

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There you have it. You’re in my office. You want to fight this to the end. You’re mad that your rights have been violated. They can’t prove this case… except, of course, for the fact that you admit you knew why they were looking at you, let them search wherever they wanted and confessed after they read you your rights.

Can’t wait for your trial.

I told you so.

Earlier this year I took issue with one of those news reports that seemed sourced mostly from a police press release. Or, at least, a police spokesperson who wasn’t about to let the reporter ask any real questions.  By this point, I’m sure you know how much I love police press releases.  Because I know this is the internet and I know you’re part of the short-attention-span Mtv (or whatever channel is cool now) generation, I also know you’re not going to bother reading the other post. So, here were the highlights:

  1. A school principal from Johnsburg was arrested for sending “offensive” letters (as though it’s illegal to be “offensive”) to parents;
  2. Because the charges were minor and because nobody would have really known otherwise, the police decided to blab to the media about it;
  3. Because it was a school official it made the paper;

What the press release didn’t say and what did not, therefore, make the paper was that this was a bad arrest and a bogus case.  So bad, and so bogus, as a matter of fact, that anybody who has been around the criminal courts for any length of time could read right through the police babble and see it.  Of course, by anybody, I even mean me. I had this to say at the time:

Folks, this is a bad case.  How do I know?  First clue is the description of what she wrote.  Look how vague it is.  Were the letters threatening? No.  They were offensive? Yeah?  How so?  Would you have been offended by those words?  Would I have? Offensive to whom?
Go ahead and Tell me what the words were. I’m a big boy. I can handle it.  What were they?
Oh.  You‘re not going to do that?

I hate to say “I told you so,” and I won’t. I will say that the case was dismissed within 60 days of the charges being filed, though.

Where’s the police press release on that?  Where are the apologies?  Where is the “we’re sorry we over-hyped a case because of the political aspect and dragged this lady through the mud on some garbage charges”?

I’ll just sit here patiently waiting for Johnsburg to apologize.  I’m going to stock up on Cheetos and crossword puzzles first, though, because something tells me it could be a long wait.

Policing and the Mentally Ill: presented without (or with very little) comment.

It’s not hard. Why does it get messed up so often?

Don’t Taze Me Cary, Illinois Bros.

Electrifying news from the Cary, Illinois police department! For the cost of only about ten thousand taxpayer dollars, seven of the officers are going to be armed with tazers. According to the Northwest Herald:

By JOSEPH BUSTOS – jbustos@shawmedia.com

CARY – Police officers in the village will soon be carrying Taser.
The village’s police department plans to equip officers with the electronic control weapons. Adding the additional level of use of force is set to cost the village about $10,750, according to Police Chief Patrick Finlon.
After training, the department will have seven units. The costs also include the battery packs, holsters and data packs, among other things.

This quote from the Cary police chief gave me the biggest chuckle, though:

The use of [electronic control weapons] has become an industry standard and with a properly developed policy and training in the area of tactics, court decisions and policy, the introduction of ECWs can reduce the possibility of injury to both law enforcement and offenders and thereby reduce exposure to the municipality,” Finlon wrote in a village memo.

That’s definitely true.  There’s a flip side to that, though.  Tasers can also be used improperly.  They can be used to harm people who otherwise wouldn’t be harmed with “traditional” policing.  They can be used by officers out of frustration, without a real reason- like this cop who tased a man as a result of a traffic stop (and subsequently cost his municipality another $40,000 plus whatever defending the lawyers cost in a law suit):

(the electrifying action comes just after the two minute mark)

I watch that and I wonder just what would have happened if that officer didn’t have a taser.

A few years back, over the course of a single month, I represented two men who had been tasered by the same department.  Both incidents stemmed from traffic tickets. In one, the man getting ticketed refused to hang up his phone and the officer got frustrated.  I seriously doubt either of them ever threatened harm to an officer. I also doubt either of them ever would have had force used against them if the officer didn’t have a taser.  Tasers seem to be the preferred method of dealing with annoying people that otherwise might not be subjected to force.

That’s not to say that tasers don’t have their uses- clearly they do.  It’s just that they seem to be over-used because they usually aren’t lethal.  Of course, sometimes they are.  And, when that happens, they cost the government tens of millions, not ten thousand dollars.

Hopefully this won’t be an issue in Cary.

When you don’t know what to do, beat and kill.

I think I’m developing a reputation as the guy who doesn’t like it when the mentally ill or disabled get beaten-.  Or, at least it looks that way from the news stories my friends send over.  It might have something to do with my thoughts on that poor dude with downs syndrome who the police killed because he wouldn’t leave the movie theater.  Or the mentally disabled man that the police in Michigan made sing and dance like a chimp. Or the old man with the cane that the Park Forest cops killed. Or… you get the point.

I’m not going to re-hash everything I’ve already said about what is quickly becoming a cop-versus-the-weak epidemic.  I’ll just say, though, that the more we want our cops to act like the military, the less patience and more force they seem to be willing to exhibit towards the mentally ill. The police are trained to take control and exert their authority over any and every situation… not to wait for the man with downs syndrome, or the old man with the cane, or even the dog running loose to calm down.  Beat and kill first, it will all be justified in the end, right?

That’s why I say it’s an epidemic- there are too many cop-beats/batters/kills-disabled-man stories for me to deal with.  Sometimes I don’t even bother opening them because I find them so disturbing.  Tonight, after The Boss turned on Sale of the Century or whatever it is she’s into watching these days, I flipped back through some of the links people had sent.  I could use something to rile me up a bit.

I got as far as this video depicting the police “interaction” with Mario Crump.  Mr. Crump is a man who suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disordertwo things that, no doubt, can make him a very difficult man to deal with.  Mr. Crump’s family was, apparently, struggling to deal with his bad mood and called the police for help.  When they arrived, it looked like this: Continue reading “When you don’t know what to do, beat and kill.”