“I Don’t Answer Questions”

“I Don’t Answer Questions”

The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution is often misunderstood. The right to remain silent protects the innocent more than that it helps criminals. News media and television shows often make it seem as if pleading the 5th is only something criminals do when they don’t want to admit to a crime. This is not true. Many innocent people plead the 5th when it comes to answering questions by law enforcement agencies. In the past couple of years, there has been a change in the way you should invoke your 5th amendment rights.

The Supreme Court ruled in Salinas v. Texas that Americans are now expected to know their 5th amendment rights. We are expected to know that unless we specifically invoke this right, anything you do or say can be used against you in a court of law. We are now encouraged to specifically say the phrase “I don’t answer questions.” Being silent can be used against you. The type of investigation or interrogation does not matter. A common occurrence is being stopped by a police officer who is prying for more information. The video below shows how you can immediately, verbally, and clearly invoke your 5th amendment rights and avoid self-incrimination.

If you watched the video closely, you see that the drivers hand the police officers a card. This card is similar to a business card, with two sides. The first side of the card says, “I hereby invoke and refuse to waive all of the following rights and privileges afforded to me by the United States Constitution. I invoke and refuse to waive my 5th Amendment right to Remain Silent. I invoke and refuse to waive my 6th Amendment right to an attorney of my choice. I invoke and refuse to waive my 4th Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. If I am not presently under arrest, or under investigatory detention, please allow me to leave.”

The second side of the card says, “Officer, I Assert My Fifth Amendment Rights As Stated On This Card, Pursuant to the law, as established by the United States Supreme Court, my lawyer has advised me not to talk to anyone and not to answer questions about any pending criminal case or any other civil, administrative, judicial, investigatory or adjudicatory matter.  Following his advice, I do not wish to talk to anyone about any criminal, civil, administrative, judicial, investigatory or adjudicatory matter, without my lawyer present.  I waive no legal rights, nor give any consents, nor submit to any tests or other procedures, without my lawyer present.  I ask that no one question or talk to me, without my lawyer here to advise me.”

We advise all of our clients to have something similar to this card with them at all times. Not only is it important to know your rights, it is equally as important to clearly invoke your rights. While you may be in a stressful situation when a law enforcement official is questioning you, you must remember your rights and the importance of the Salinas ruling. We hope the video above and the article referenced below is useful to our clients and helps them protect their constitutional rights.

Source referenced: The Free Thought Project

Guidelines For Professional Conduct | United States District Court, Northern District of California

Professionalism includes Courtesy.

When I was a young, baby lawyer, gentlemanly conduct and professional courtesy was the norm.  Rare was the lawyer who felt compelled to make everything as difficult and unpleasant as possible for no better reason than to, well, make everything difficult and unpleasant.  That kind of conduct did not fair well usually and the source often received a return on his investment that prejudiced his client and tarnished his reputation.

Somewhere along the way, obnoxious and difficult behavior became more and more common until eventually it seems that to some, it was a badge of honor.  In certain jurisdictions acrimony became the norm not the exception.  Nothing good came from this.

Bemoaning this decline in civility among lawyers, many Courts have promulgated standards of conduct designed to guide the deviating lawyer back to the land of professionalism and civility.  Most recently, the United States District Court for  the Northern District of California (San Francisco) has published its own version of such standards.

Guidelines For Professional Conduct | United States District Court, Northern District of California.

It’s a good read and a poignantly reflective reminder for those of us that have always aspired to maintain the highest levels of respectful professionalism how to remain so.

 

 

The Art of Cross-Examination

As a trial lawyer, I was always taught that the three (3) main rules of cross-exaimination were: Don’t do it, Don’t do it, and Don’t’ do it. Too numerous to count are the times that I have violated the rules, or seen others violate the rules, and cringed at the resulting outcome. But alas, every rule has its exceptions. So on those occasions when the exception applies – here is a short primer on how to survive. Mastering the Art of Cross-Examination: Tips from a Judge | CEB Blog – Your Partner In Practice http://ow.ly/ihJdB