Small Town in New York Demonstrates The Value of Keeping Your Mouth Shut During Encounters With Police

A recent press release by the ironically named Village of Liberty Police Department in New York  shows us just how bad things can go for you if you choose to talk to the police. Not only did a woman get in trouble for having pistols in the supposedly free state of New York, but she also landed herself several felonies charges by telling police where she had been with the guns.

A Typical PD Redcoat Post

The post says . . .

There was also the obligatory trophy photo of the dangerous items collected during the arrest (above).

What We Can Learn From This

When they say “Further investigation revealed…”, they don’t get into specifics, but what they did here seems pretty obvious. Police can’t get your vehicle’s data (assuming it collects location data) without a court order. They also aren’t going to bother with things like buying data from the license plate reader network that repo men use (that’s only really used for bigger investigations). They also can’t call the CIA and see where your vehicle has been using spy satellites, unless you’re extremely interesting and the CIA is watching you.

What the Village of Liberty cop almost certainly did here was just start asking questions that all police officers ask.

“Where are you coming from?”

“Where are you headed?”

“What are you up to today?”

What many people don’t know, however, is that you’re under exactly zero obligation to answer any of their questions. There’s this thing called the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It’s part of the Bill of Rights…maybe you’ve heard of it.

The Fifth Amendment says . . .

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The part I put in bold type limits what the government can make you do if they’re investigating you or if you’re on trial. Because of the Fourteenth Amendment, this applies to state and local governments, too.

It has resulted in the Miranda Warning (“you have a right to remain silent”) being issued to people who are being arrested or “interviewed,” but that right exists whether or not they give you that little legal pointer. You have a right to remain silent from the very beginning of any interaction with a law enforcement officer.

And, if you’re smart at all, you’ll exercise your right to remain silent. Scrupulously.

Here’s a great video by a law professor explaining the ins and outs of the Fifth Amendment and why you should never talk to the police . . .

Even if you’re innocent, even if you think you’re really good at talking to people, and even if you think there’s some way to say something that could could help you, it simply is never worth the risk. It literally cannot help you. Ever.

The sad fact is that there are too many laws with too many vague and open-ended provisions for even the government to know how many crimes there are. And police are trained to use deception and psychological tricks to get you to talk and incriminate yourself.

Think of it this way: you’re a person who’s never boxed before, and by opening your mouth, you’re signing yourself up for a match against the undisputed heavyweight world champion. He or she will be probably be super nice and friendly the whole time they’re pumping you for information, systematically making sure you lose the ability to defend yourself in court later on, should you choose to.

But, thanks to some more recent court cases, you have to at least let the police know that you are exercising your right to remain silent. Kenny Suitter has a pretty decent way to do that:

Another extremely important lesson is to never consent to a search of your person, your vehicle, or your home. If you don’t consent, they have to have probable cause or a warrant to do a search. But, if you tell them it’s OK, they can search anything and your lawyer will have no basis later to exclude anything that’s found in the search.

Like your right to remain silent, this is also guaranteed by the Constitution, but this time from the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

In the Village of Liberty case, above the people in the vehicle likely did everything wrong. They opened their mouths and answered questions. They let the police search the vehicle and at least one of the passengers. They gave police everything they needed to ruin their lives.

I’m not saying it’s a good idea to break New York’s unconstitutional laws. I don’t recommend that at all. But it’s obvious that the framers and ratifiers of the Fonstitution created a multi-layered defense against tyranny that’s available to all of us.

The Fourth and Fifth Amendments exist to protect you from an out of control leviathan that seeks to destroy your human rights. But, when we willingly give those rights away instead of exercising them, they’re of no use to us at all

2 Responses

  1. Somewhat unexpected for the Catskills region but generally good advice all around in this state even where the cops genuinely don’t care if you have normal firearms.

  2. The only LEOs I trust are the ones I personally work with. All others don’t know me, and I don’t know them. If we ever interact, it would be in their capacity as an on-duty (likely uniformed) representative of their government department. They would in no way be my friend.

    True story… a couple of years ago, I was with a group of friends having lunch. A few tables away from us, a child not of our group began choking and turning blue, and the mother began to panic. An LASD Sargeant in our own group rushed over, cleared the child’s airway and removed the food blockage, and provided medical assistance until EMS arrived to take over. A pair of Deputies accompanied them, and because LASD is so large, our Sargeant and the Deputies didn’t know each other. He attempted to brief them for their report, and afterward walked back over to our table shaking his head and mentioning his displeasure at their lack of interest. He told us most Deputies who have at least a few years under their belt begin to develop a disdain for interacting with anyone, even fellow LEOs outside their immediate circle, and reminded us that they are never our friends.

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