Last time we talked about the fundamental importance of the right to remain silent. Experienced criminal defense attorneys will all tell you that half of their clients wouldn’t be clients if they had only invoked their right to remain silent. When the police question you about a burglary and you say, “I was only looking around,” or something equally ill advised, you have just proven an essential element of a felony….i.e. that YOU (not someone else) are the person who was there. Now, instead of forcing the prosecutor to prove you were there by convincing a jury of your peers beyond a reasonable doubt that you were in fact the person who was seen at the crime scene, so to speak, they simply repeat what you said in court to the jury. Just as Miranda warns us: Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. And, it will.
The Seattle Criminal Lawyer Blog Posts
What do public figures from Richard Nixon to Martha Stewart all have in common?
But, they didn’t lie to just anybody. (I mean that wouldn’t really distinguish them from most other public figures now, would it?). No, they lied to government officials during formal questioning. Thus, they exposed themselves to allegations of perjury, obstructing a government agent, fraud and perhaps much more.
In some jurisdictions, lying about crimes committed by others can make you an accessory after the fact. Conspiracy charges might follow. Even RICO cases can stem from organized collaboration to defraud governmental officials resulting in the obstruction of justice (18 U.S.C. § 1961-1968).
And, for the most part, all these famous folks had to do was listen to their lawyers. Under the Fifth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, and comparable state constitutional provisions such as Article 1 Section 9 in Washington, we all have a right to remain silent when being questioned by government agents. This is a fundamental right under the Bill of Rights. Right up there with the First Amendment, which lets us say things, the Fifth Amendment lets us not say things.