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Category: Art of Law

Constitutional Rights are for Everyone, Including the Right to Shut Up

don't forget your right to Shut UpSo, we finally get to the juicy bit. This shows the other side of the bad penny you toss every time you waive the Fifth Amendment and talk to the government, and forget your right to Shut Up.

When you try to talk your way out of things, sometimes you make mistakes in the way you tell your story. Sometimes you lie. But, frankly, to be convicted of obstructing or perjury or various other ‘crimes and misdemeanors’ you only have to look guilty to a jury of your peers – after they have reviewed all of the evidence and decided your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (of course that is all that matters to any experienced criminal defense attorney in any case, but that is a discussion for another day…

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The Right to Remain Silent: Use It or Lose It

Remain Silent or Go To PrisonWhat do public figures from Richard Nixon to Martha Stewart all have in common?

They lied.

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. ยง 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.

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