Don't ever speak to the FBI without a tape recorder running and a lawyer present

The ACLU of Massachusetts made this video of civil liberties and civil rights attorney Harvey Silverglate explaining how to protect yourself from FBI agents who will interview you, then claim you lied so they can threaten you with imprisonment (unless you agree to become their puppet).

The message from Robel’s prosecution and Silverglate’s advice is clear: do not talk to the FBI without your lawyer present. If Harvey’s decades long experience is any indication, chances are that the agents will politely decline to interview you if you and your attorney insist on creating an accurate record of an FBI interrogation.

Privacy SOS: On "false statements" and FBI interrogations

(Thanks, Tim!)



    1. exactly what I’ve been told by every member of law enforcement I’ve ever met. 

        1. Not if you aren’t formally arrested.  If you’re just “being held for questioning” they don’t read you your rights.

          1. Well, yes. It was a joke, playing on the possibility that every encounter  ryuthrowsstuff had with law enforcement was an arrest.

    2. The tricky part of this situation is distinguishing between not talking to law enforcement when you’re a suspect and not talking to them when you’re a potential witness or may have useful information regarding a crime in your community.

      Prior to being arrested, knowing where you stand seems like a hard thing to determine.

      So should everyone simply never talk to law enforcement at all? What if you think you may have helpful information?

      1. And why might you have helpful information, HMMM?

        Don’t participate in the conviction industry unless forced to. The police and prosecutors have made this bed.

        1. Wrong. Don’t participate if the law is immoral. If the law is ethical, then you have a duty to help. If you had material evidence about a rape, would you hold your tongue because you are worried about the “conviction industry”?

          1.  Even being a witness or having “helpful” information I still think it wise to retain a lawyer – Ya have to look at the angles – you know law enforcement does.  Regardless of  your level of involvement, words can be twisted, misrepresented and all of your good intentions could snowball.

          2. True, but this does not mean that you shouldn’t volunteer information that could be relevant when it is ethical to do so. You have a right to be protected from police and prosecutors abusing their authority, but you still have the duty to ensure that victims of crime get justice.

            For example, if I knew information about a murder or rape, I would volunteer that information though a lawyer. If I knew information about ‘illegal’ drug sales, I wouldn’t volunteer a damn thing. And if Carmen Ortiz, or the equivalent, was involved then I would tape my middle finger up for the duration of the questioning.

          3.  If you have material evidence about a rape, why didn’t you act at the time to prevent it? Thank you for your testimony, you’re under arrest for assisting the rapist.

      2.  So should everyone simply never talk to law enforcement at all? What if you think you may have helpful information?

        Out of self-interest, probably so.  In some cases there may be an altruistic reason to talk to law enforcement without a lawyer present – but you have to understand the seriousness of the risk you are taking.

        1. Let’s see:

          on one hand) loss of job; loss of freedom–possibly for years–or ever if charged with a sex crime; loss of family; loss of house, car and other possessions

          on the other) helping out the victim of a crime, maybe

          No contest.

      3. No, talk to them all you like, provided you have representation in the room.  If you have helpful information, talk to them with representation in the room.  Unless there is a definite, provable, imminent threat, I would not talk to them without representation present.

        Without that imminent threat, they’re going to detain you as long as they need.  They can go home, bring in another shift, and keep questioning you.  Without representation you’re out of luck and without a witness.
        I know it seems repetitive, but it’s important.  Miranda Rights don’t say “anything you say will be used to your benefit in a court of law,” they only promise you will be used against you.

      4.  If you are detained for any reason – ask if you are free to leave – if you are then leave – if you are not then you are under arrest and do not have to talk without a lawyer.

        You *do* have to provide your name and address if asked – after that – follow the above script.

        If you are free to leave and continue to talk – it’s a voluntary interview and you are under no protection from Miranda.

        If you are not free to leave then you are under arrest and have Miranda rights and the right to a lawyer.

        If you are free to leave the only thing you have to answer directly is your name and address.

        Pretty simple if you can keep it memorized :)

        1. I don’t mean after you’re detained. 

          I wonder how many of the “never talk to anyone, ever!” commentators would reply to an  unexpected officer at their door asking “Did you hear anything unusual last night?”

          I would answer; I’d probably answer a number of un-accusatory and general questions.

          I also do not have a defense attorney who I’d know to call in any situation, although I’d like one. 

          I wonder which, if any, of the commentators above DO HAVE a defense attorney in their cell phone…  kudos to those who do!

          1.  These days, I wouldn’t. I’ve had cops try to haul my learning-disabled teenager downtown for a “voluntary interview,” wherein they were transparently going to frame him for a burglary I know he could not have committed. I’ve had cops call down CPS on on me because I admitted that I grabbed my kid when he was running for a busy street. I’ve had cops try to get me evicted because I let them in “to talk” and the house was messy.

            Never talk to cops without a lawyer. Never let them in any of your spaces– house, car, property– without a warrant. Never answer “just a few questions.” Just don’t.

            It’s kind of sad that you should avoid talking to cops, but it’s less sad than what happens when you talk to cops.

          2. Do you mind sharing approximately where you live?  I’m sure most of us would like to avoid any jurisdiction that openly corrupt.  

        2.  the 5th Amendment always applies.

          Miranda warnings must be given when you are being subjected to a custodial interrogation.

          Police are not required to provide a Miranda warning if a reasonable person would feel free to go (under other some other exigent circumstance, not worth getting into here).  To this end, the police will often take steps to ensure that a reasonable person would feel free to live; for instance, asking a person if they would mind talking more at the station, and allowing the person to drive themselves (or my favorite, allowing them to ride in the front seat of the cop car), not handcuffing a person, etc.

          In any event, the police can never compel you to talk (although courts can in some instances)

      5. Cops are allowed to lie and mislead. So, you will never know if a cop thinks you’re guilty of something and is questioning you “as a witness” when they’re really trying to trick you into confessing to the crime they’ve already judged you guilty of committing.

      6.  Hey, I totally agree that this is a tricky situation and I think your post hits the nail right on the head. When I’ve talked about this issue in the past, this is always the sticking point that there is no good answer for (sort of a “I know it when I see it” kind of a thing).

        On the one hand, police should be understood as evidence gathering machines who work for the state with the goal of gaining convictions; on the other hand, we want out society to work well, and most reasonable folks would want to assist in righting any wrong or injustice that has been visited on an a person as a result of someone’s criminal acts.

      7.  If you think you have helpful information, by all means tell the police.  With a tape recorder running.  To the police, everyone is a suspect, and if they can’t find the criminal… it’s not exactly unheard of to go after the witness.

        1. Make sure you know the recording laws in your jurisdiction.  In mine you may not make an audio recording without the consent of all parties recorded.

      8. If you have helpful information, you need to get immunity first, so that you are not in any danger of being charged with anything (especially if you’re innocent!). For that, you need a lawyer. 

        Don’t EVER, EVER, EVER talk to any LEO (except for whatever your state says you have to vis-a-vis identification) for any reason, ever. Unless you have a lawyer.

        This message brought to you by a random person on teh interwebs.

    3. Correct.  Television procedurals have messed up the whole scene; never ever ever talk to the authorities until you have an authority of your own to represent you.  In an adversarial system it is the only rational & ethical choice.

  1. What’s needed is a little card with text that you can read to the agent explaining that you’re not going to talk to them because you don’t want to go to jail for making a mistake while trying to remember what happened, because you don’t want to go to jail because… etc, etc, etc…

    Is pleading the fifth (while, apparently, is sufficiente ‘proof’ you’re guilty of something) enough/still-legal?

      1. The ACLU created a “Bust Card” many years ago that is pretty good at this.  I printed them and gave them out for years: (.pdf links near the bottom of the article)

      2. Here’s a stab at text you can read out:

        I would like to help you guys but history has proven that talking to the FBI is a surefire way to be charged with a felony. 
        Too many FBI agents have brought dishonor to their badge by routinely lying to the public and the courts, by threatening the innocent, and harassing people who are engaged in perfectly legal and constitutionally-protected behavior – given that this behavior is routinely rewarded, one would suspect that these are jobs one, two, and three at the FBI.  Furthermore FBI procedures and policy criminalizes simple everyday mistakes by non-FBI-employed citizens. 

        A reasonable person can no longer trust that the bearer of that badge is operating with good faith and integrity.
        Thus I invoke my right to remain silent.

        Of course, this would need to be run by a lawyer.  It would get the message across, eh?

        1.  Not polite enough, really. Let me take a crack at it:

          While I wish to be helpful, it is wiser for me to remain silent as I have no guarantee of an accurate record of these proceedings or of reliable legal information.  I am fully aware that any statement I give you can expose me to legal action and, as such, I do not wish to provide any response that may be misconstrued against me.

          Until I guarantee that my responses will be taken accurately and with full legal understanding, I will exercise my right to remain silent.

    1. The Fifth Amendment protects you when you’re on trial. It’s not relevant when it’s “just an informal interview.” Just heed Silverglate’s warning.  Have your lawyer present, and a…  wow do they even make tape recorders any more?

      1.  The thing about tape recorders is that they’re more admissible as evidence. An analogue sound recording is much harder screw with than digital, and so is more trusted in a court of law.

      2. I disagree. The 5th amendment does not stipulate just trials alone:

      3. 5th amendment is consistent in all cases, just like you can always be prosecuted for false statements; likewise, Miranda rights always exist, regardless of whether or not the police read them to you.

        1. This is me being a bit fussy about the criminal procedure, but as I discussed above, Miranda rights do not always exist. Law enforcement must provide a Miranda warning only when a person is subject to custodial interrogation. This is a bit different than a person’s 5th Amendment right, which does always exist.

    2. Or explain that you would love to talk to them but unfortunately are unable, because so many of them have brought dishonor to that badge by routinely lying and threatening the innocent, such that a reasonable person could nolonger trust a wearer of that badge to be operating with good faith and integrity.
      Unfortunately, that would constitute making a statement, and it would likely be used against you.

    3. “I refuse to speak without my lawyer present.”

      Repeat as needed.  They will eventually get the hint.

    4. Pleading the 5th is the right to not give any self-incriminating statements in any testimonial setting.

      That being said, a person can just tell law enforcement members that you would prefer not to speak, and ask if you are free to leave, and if you are not free to leave, by unequivocally invoking your right to silence and counsel (after which point they are required by law to cease questioning).

      The police have no mechanism to compel speech of any kind.

    1. These videos sum it all up beautifully.  Invest the time and watch them… Repeat the message vigorously to others.

    2.  I was SO going to post the video myself.   In fact, here is the complete 48 minute video.  Trust me when I say that once you start watching it you will not be able to stop.


      After watching this you will never, EVER speak to a cop again under ANY circumstances.

      Up here (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), when someone is hurt or killed during police activity a group called the S.I.U. (Special Investigations Unit) is required to investigate.  They’re an arms-length ‘civilian’ group that is actually composed of mostly ex-cops.

      The police are SUPPOSED to answer any questions put to them by the SIU.
      That said, I’m ashamed to say that the police here never, EVER talk to the SIU. What does THAT tell you?

      Whether witness or suspect, if the police won’t speak to the police why should you?

  2. I’m sorry if this is a dumb question, but will a person always know when she or he is being questioned by the FBI or an agent of a  security/intelligence/law enforcement agency? Are agents required to identify themselves, or can they pose as regular civilians?

    1. If Breaking Bad has taught me anything, it’s that if you ask a cop if they’re a cop… he’s like obligated to tell you. It’s in the constitution.

      1. That’s not true at all, and I don’t even remember anybody saying it in Breaking Bad. They have undercover cops, whose job requires them to lie constantly. If you ask an undercover cop if he or she is an undercover cop, the answer is always no.

        EDIT: Oh you elusive internet sarcasm.

        1. Early season 2 it was said. IIRC it was when ‘Heisenberg’ first met the three first dealers at the atomic museum.

      2. Not true. They’re not obligated to admit it. Urban myth. It’s a good thing you’re getting the info now in case you’re ever concerned that you may be talking to someone in law enforcement.

    2. I have no idea, but a guess would be that you couldn’t get convicted of lying to law enforcement that you didn’t know were law enforcement.

        1. Right you are. You can go to jail for lying to a federal agent even if the federal agent is not identified as such, even if the lie is actually a mistake of fact or a clear statement of opinion, and even if the lie is not material to an investigation.

          In fact, it would appear that we could all get sent to jail simply by having a female FBI agent ask, “does this dress make my butt look fat?”

          1. The correct answer is “No, it’s your hips that make your butt look fat.”

            Note: “Correct” and “safe” are not always the same thing.

      1. You can get convicted of trying to avoid being beaten up by law enforcement that you didn’t know were law enforcement.  Even if they started the encounter by jumping out of a big black van in plainclothes and trying to drag you in.

        1. Dear America,
          You might want to see a doctor about that.

          (In before people jumping on me for being paternalistic to the United States. Canada is essentially your little sister. It’s our job to make fun of you even when it hurts.)

    3.  Law enforcement officers, or their agents, are not generally required to identify themselves. The main exception is once you have been formally charged with a crime, after which a 6th Amendment right to counsel attaches, and undercover police agents may no longer speak to you. (as always, no legal advice here, and I am speaking extremely generally).

  3. I was interviewed by the FBI once because I was an acquaintance of someone they were investigating. Maybe I’m naive, but since I was not involved in any crime, it seemed like the right thing to do to talk to them. I feel like if had made a fuss and asked for an attorney, it would’ve cast suspicion on me.

    1. You’re traveling with some harmful preconceptions. “[T]he right thing to do” is a pure invention of preference on their part, a PR line.

      Also, exercising your rights cannot be used as an element of suspicion, regardless of how you feel.

    2. You were naive. The only reason you aren’t in jail right now is that they didn’t want you. Had they gone into that interview with the opinion that you were somehow involved, something you said would have been proof enough to hang you. True or false, doesn’t matter, innocent or guilty doesn’t matter. Seriously. Lawyer up.

      My rule of thumb is that if I call the cop, it’s okay to talk to the cop as long as I’m careful. If the cop, any cop, calls me? I call one of my lawyer friends.

      1. “My rule of thumb is that if I call the cop, it’s okay to talk to the cop as long as I’m careful. If the cop, any cop, calls me? I call one of my lawyer friends.”

        Whoop, there it is.  Get this tattooed on yourself everyone.

        1. Great.   Thanks for sticking that tune in my head.   A thousand internet fleas upon your 90’s pop reference. ;)

  4. Wow, this is extremely important information.  I feel like I should tattoo it on the inside of my arm.

  5. So I pull my recorder, state I am going to use it and they immediately grab my recorder and smash it for being a smart ass. Ooops. What should I do?

      1. That supposes they will also wait for my lawyer… Of course, I am looking at this situation from a perspective of “if the FBI willingly misrepresents anyone’s statements, they could very well start making questions and put anything on paper, even if I just say I’ll wait for my lawyer”.

        By the way, who’s paying for all this? I don’t suppose any lawyer will just drop by for my good looks.

    1. Wait for your lawyer before doing that and have them use theirs.

      Why record yourself saying you’ll only talk with your lawyer present?  That’s a pretty boring thing to listen to.

  6. Isn’t wrong that I would be scared from them, if I didn’t do anything? I’m little bit confused right now after thinking about it for a while…

  7. I thought it was kinda over the top to take the “don’t talk to the police without a lawyer” stance until more and more I’m hearing about regular people having their lives ruined if they say something careless. Since Aaron Swartz, I don’t think that any more.

    1. Can waiting for your attorney ever hurt you?  No.

      Can talking without an attorney ever hurt you?  Yes.

      DA’s are looking for convictions so they can look good to voters.  Cops are looking for convictions so they can look good to CompStat.  If some rando who’s probably done something wrong (why else would they have put themselves in a position to be arrested?) has to go down in order to prove their point, so be it.

      Again, Miranda Rights come out and say it “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”  Not “Anything you say can and will be used to prove your innocence.”

    1. That’s Tudza’s point.  Don’t talk so you can’t give contradictory evidence.

    1.  Because the human mind wants to find someone to blame.  Because we as a species are *bad* at assigning blame to the wrong person.

      You can see this by:

      * The number of people on death row sent free because DNA cleared them of *any* wrongdoing years after the case

      *  The number of people killed in custody by police

      *  The number of people vilified by the public before a trial and conviction

      Seriously all those rules we made about ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and ‘right to remain silent’ and ‘no cruel and unusual punishment’ and ‘right to an attorney’ and ‘no debtors prison’…

      Those are all there because we have proven to *ourselves* that we are bad at these things and will do the wrong thing enough to create laws and a system to force us to do the right thing.

      Those aren’t ideals that people will drop under now and then – those are rules to remind us what we need to do to keep the system from being a sham.

      We don’t have laws that help us when everything is great – the laws are there to remind us the lines we are not supposed to cross when we are at our worst.


  8. So, the best idea is never talk to the police. Gotcha. In that case, what’s this bit all about?

    “…it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court”

    Am I just being a dumb transatlantean and confusing UK and US law? (and if so, does the advice about not talking to the police also stand in the UK?)

    I guess I could just read this myself…

    1. Yes, you’re confusing UK and US.  Maybe.  Actually, IANAL.

      The UK brought that little tidbit in 15-20 years ago.  It goes strongly against the right not to incriminate yourself, as viz talking you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

      Prosecution:  “The defendant stayed mute – MUTE! – when asked about the incident.  Clearly, obviously, he can only have been attempting to stupidly HIDE the real story – and he’d heard his rights, that’s on record”

      Defence:  “Objection.  Harassment”

      Prosecution:  “You must on that basis find him GUILTY!”

      Judge:  “Yeah!  Guilty!  Send him DOWN!  May he ROT!”

    2. Glad for living in Germany. Here I have the right to remain silent, the right to legal counsel and, best of all, it’s not illegal to LIE to the police.

      Fun fact: Fleeing from prison isn’t illegal either.

  9. God is perfectly just.  God says, “healthy Catastrophic_Success sanctuary transcribe USE conversion
    Know watered end -nor directions healthfully meditate
    important ensnared boils your pretend spreadest mother-in-law
    teachers “

  10. God says…

    6:21 Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately

    the ship was at the land whither they went.

    6:22 The day following, when the people which stood on the other side

    of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one

    whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his

    disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone;

    6:23 (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place

    where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) 6:24

    When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his

    disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for


  11. “The Advocate” is the Holy Spirit.  Do not prepare your words.  I asked God if He likes to haunt courtrooms or hospitals.  He said “prisons”.  His favorite thing on TV is soap operas.  God says, “weights infidels clean vicissitudes theft indentures multiple son asunder -considering beggar-man production haply supremely brows buyers I’m_busy hotly Drunkenness family-estate notice divide unteachable windy beset gluttony arriving proofread excellency email birth settle deliveredst dissolved give devils communication adversities absurd clanking intimacy firmly execrate discourage happens allege emerging incline arranged departing sinful spreads knows itself what_the_heck bowing attack numberest Yes vanities sinned unchain blade affecting That’s_my_favorite lulled unjust worlds “

  12. My favorite topic! I’m going to take a moment and address the 5th Amendment generally, and try to address some specific comments as well (all without making a gigantic post, like I usually do).

    The 5th Amendment protects a person against having to give evidence against themselves. It applies in any testimonial situation (including potentially interviews with police). Generally speaking the 5th Amendment right trumps most if not all of the other Constitutional rights (such as the 6th Amendment right to effective counsel, and so forth).

    Miranda is simply the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the 5th, and a means of taking steps to ensure that law enforcement respect peoples’ 5th Amendment right, the Miranda ruling doesn’t change or modify the right in any way, that case simply requires that law enforcement receive a clear and unequivocal invocation of 5th Amendment rights, otherwise (generally speaking) questioning may continue (there are some tricky sub-issues here, but they are not worth going into).

    In his post, Jubilex sort of touched on the next part a bit: Police must only give Miranda warnings when a person is subjected to a “custodial interrogation”. The test for whether someone is in custody is whether a reasonable person would feel free to leave under the circumstance (there is an exception for automobile stops). The test for whether an interrogation has occurred is whether the questioning would be understood be a reasonable person to elicit an incriminating response.

    No Miranda warning is required unless one is being subjected to a custodial interrogation. Police are allowed to just chat with folks (in fact, it is a very common tactic for police to begin every conversation with something like “hey, do you mind if we chat for a moment?”) and anything a person says during a simple conversation, may be admitted into evidence against them.

    Ok, still with me? The next part is pretty interesting.
    The 5th Amendment does not protect a person from being compelled to give evidence against a third party. A nice illustration of this are cases where journalists have been given information which was obtained or disseminated illegally, but refuse to disclose their source.

    However, the police are not equipped with any mechanisms to compel statements from a person unwilling to make them (whether against themselves, or another). A court, grand jury, or subpoena are the usual mechanisms for this. Generally failing to disclose information when instructed to do so by a court will allow the court to fine and/or jail a person under the Court’s contempt powers.

    In a word (and generally speaking): police cannot compel you to say anything you don’t want to, whether they have read you Miranda or not.

    (As always, I am speaking extremely generally, and nothing in any of my posts should be construed as legal advice)

  13. If you are invoking your Fifth Amendment Rights you need to invoke and not say anything else- no partial information or half a story. Everything and anything you say can be used against you.  Telling your story and saying you had McDonalds for Breakfast on the day in Question and they find it was actually Burger King calls into question Everything you say, paints you as a Liar- and can suddenly make you a person of interest.

    Never forget, police have want to close a case- Justice can be secondary

    An even longer but much more informative video:

  14. People talk about waiting for ‘your’ lawyer. Is it common for people to actually have lawyers, i.e. have a preexisting business relationship with one and have his or her phone number on hand? I’ve never used the services of a lawyer before. I would have no idea how to find one without several hours of googling and phone calls. That isn’t an option for people who are arrested, so I am curious how those people find lawyers (obviously I think that will never happen to me, but probably most people arrested assume it could never happen to them). The idea of wanting a lawyer if you are just speaking as a witness or bystander is new to me. I guess it makes sense, but it is kindof sad. I guess I’m just lucky never to have had an adversarial encounter with law enforcement.

    1. I have a sister-in-law who is a lawyer four hours away.  However, my call would not be to her.  It would be my wife, who would then use the internet to google and start making phone calls to find me local legal representation as soon as possible.

      Your first job is to use your call to get someone you trust on the outside to do the work of finding you representation during the police interview.  It doesn’t have to be the best legal team ever, it just has to be someone who knows the law who can serve as a witness if called upon.

      Your second job is to tell the questioning agency that you’re not going to answer any questions until your legal representative arrives.

      Your third job is to then do your second job for as long as it takes.

      But, you should find a lawyer to start a relationship with anyway, for your will and whatnot.  That’s a whole separate thread, but

        1. Depends on if you want to wait for the free public defender or not.  In other words:  What’s being out on the street worth to you compared to the cost of a possible felony accusation?  

          It’s like insurance.  You get it and hope you don’t need it or don’t get it and hope nothing bad ever happens.

          1.  Hey, you are sort of mixing up issues here a little bit.

            It is hard to talk hypothetically in this instance because there are a lot of variables, but generally “being out on the street” occurs after arraignment (which for more serious/felony charges, almost all courts will either appoint an attorney if the defendant doesn’t already have one) if bail has been made or if it is a lesser charge, the court or the police may release a defendant on their own recognizance (again,  I am using an extremely broad brush throughout this entire post).

            In the later case, this can happen without any representation, in the former, there is almost always an attorney (appointed or otherwise), who makes the argument for bail amount and so forth.

            As for being on the street or facing a felony accusation, if the police have probable cause to believe you have a committed a felony, they generally arrest you, at which point the ball starts rolling, you are assigned an attorney (or choose to self-represent), have an arraignment/bail hearing/probable cause hearing date set, etc.

            Also, in terms of waiting for the public defender, this sort of gets us into some deep water which would require a sort of lengthy explanation of the public defender system, but in general, PDs are assigned practically immediately (this can vary depending on the jurisdiction and some other stuff, such as nature of the crime), and generally are present at a defendant’s arraignment or probable cause hearing, etc.

          2. We are talking about an interview. At first, you are not the suspect. It seems an abuse having to pay for a lawyer just to protect yourself from your own law enforcement (but I guess that’s the point of this whole article). 

            Do you mean a public defender could be called for an interview? If so, I’ll just make sure I have all their contacts in my fridge.

            In life, you need to trust a good mechanic and a good lawyer.

    2.  In my experience, even when people have lawyers that they regularly use, very few people have criminal attorneys on retainer (as it would be extremely weird, maybe some of the criminals in the television show “The Wire”, but that scenario is, to say the least, the exception rather than the rule). This is because of the specialization required to effectively practice any particular kind of law -the sorts of attorneys most people use in their daily lives are real estate, trust, and contract type attorneys.

      Generally (again, in my experience) when someone does have a lawyer, and they get arrested, the (usually non-criminal) attorney just tells the client not to say anything until they sort out more effective criminal counsel to step in before arraignment.

      So to answer your question, it is my opinion that it is exceedingly rare for someone to have a criminal law practitioner on retainer.

      This would actually be a really good place to have a sort of crash course discussion on how the public defender system works (as well as 6th Amendment right to counsel which exists for many types of charges), but I suspect no one would read it if I typed it all out.

  15. As a sys admin back in grad school, I was questioned by the FBI regarding a hacking instance around 1996 or 1997 (on the Florida Supreme Court website, hackers replaced the images of the supreme court judges with the bodies of naked women). I was young and  inexperienced and cooperated fully. A system I was in charge of was used as one hopping point among many to get to the destination site. The FBI guy asked me point blank if I was the one responsible, and I just said no.

    Anyway, nothing more came of it. I printed voluminous system logs and put them in an envelope and mailed the to the FBI (wanted to email him, but the agent told me that no one at the FBI had email addresses because getting on the internet was too dangerous–was that really the case by 1996?). Anyway, nothing more ever came of it. I think they tracked the hacker, who had stolen the account of a student, down to Canada eventually.

    Today, there’s no way I would be that cooperative. I’ve read way too much about the federal government’s behaviour in other cases. Reading Radley Balko  for years will do that to you. It’s best to never draw the eye or interest of our government.

    1. The disturbing part of your story is that the FBI was wasting resources chasing down some lulz.

      1.  The disturbing part of your story is that the FBI was wasting resources chasing down some lulz.

        Er, no.  If Hakerz! add teh naked! to some private web site that’s beneath the law.  If it happens to someone important then it’s a federal case.

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