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Don’t Talk to the Authorities June 15, 2008

Posted by federalist in Uncategorized.
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Regent Law School Professor James Duane recorded an excellent lecture explaining why you should never agree to an “interview” with government authorities — even if you believe you have nothing to hide, even if you are innocent of any crime, and even if you would only speak truth!

I previously assumed that our Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination was a relic of earlier justice systems that exploited coercion in ways that are not accepted today.  Why, given all of the protections encumbering our modern judicial system, would an innocent person refuse to testify to authorities?  Professor Duane gives a more nuanced explanation, but two salient reasons are:

  1. Today’s legal code is so bloated that no person can be certain that they have not broken a law.
  2. Even if you haven’t broken a law the mere act of trying to affirm your innocence can incriminate you.

The first point is a failure of the legislature: No government should be permitted to erect a minefield of laws through which its executive agents can push any citizen they may wish to harass.  The second point is true even in the abstract, but it is compounded by human nature and a legal system that lets prosecutors launch witch-hunts.

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