At one point a couple of years ago, I received an unexpected delivery from Amazon, containing a bottle of PreSeed Fertility-Friendly Lubricant. This surprised both me and my fiancee, as I hadn't ordered it, nor would I order something like this, as my fiancee and I are deliberately not trying to conceive a child. (For one thing, she has DVT and is on Coumadin; a pregnancy would be potentially life-threatening for her.)
Checking my Amazon order history, I found no reference to any such order, nor did I find any reference to the order number on the invoice. I E-mailed their customer support, asking how I could return this item, since I hadn't ordered it and didn't want to be charged for it. They replied, saying that the shipment was in error, I had not been charged, and due to the nature of the item, they couldn't accept returns on it.
I wound up offering it to my Facebook friends, and shipping it to a friend in Illinois that spoke up first to claim it. She didn't say why she wanted it and I didn't ask.
Remember, everyone in charge of the police and prosecutors is either a political appointee or a directly-elected official (in the case of county sheriffs), and they all love to appear "tough on crime" for the voters, and they tend to look out for "their own." They've probably also taken this quote to heart:
"Did you really think we want those laws observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."
- Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (1957)
When Ken is saying, "Either tell the 100% complete truth or SHUT UP," one must also keep in mind that almost nobody is capable of telling the 100% complete truth to investigators. As he has shown, even something as small as a detail you misremembered or misspoke about can be turned into an instant felony...and that additional charge, your lawyer will tell you, can make your actual case against any other charges that much more difficult to defend. (See also)
Bear in mind that Ken is now a federal defense attorney, and he has both personally seen this tactic in operation, and had colleagues report it to him.
The lesson — other than that criminal justice often has little to do with actual justice — is this: for God's sake shut up. Law enforcement agents seeking to interview you are not your friends. You cannot count on "just clearing this one thing up." Demand to talk to a lawyer before talking to the cops. Every time.
- The cops do not have your best interests at heart. Really. Even if you are just a witness, they will be happy if you blurt out something that incriminates you, or seems to incriminate you.
- With all respect, you probably suck at answering questions. You have not been trained yet to recognize the tactics cops use to put you ill at ease during an interview. You are probably nervous. You are probably going to be answering questions off of the top of your heard. If you have decided not to take my advice to SHUT UP, you are probably eager to please and will strain to answer questions, even if it means guessing at things you don't know or don't remember. Especially if the questions are complicated — for instance, about a financial transaction — you need to go over the details and any physical evidence to remember exactly what happened. So even if you are trying to be completely honest, if you go into this interview without careful preparation, there is an excellent chance that you will get a key fact wrong through bad memory or nerves. Later, if you remember the right answer, the cops will say you are "changing your story around."
- And if you aren't ready to tell the 100% unvarnished truth, God help you. Look: there are only two courses of action to take when the government asks you questions. Either tell the 100% complete truth or SHUT UP. Nothing in between. You may think you are terribly clever and can shade the truth, spin the truth, rely on cute hidden definitions to answer questions, etc. Cut that shit out. They've seen it a thousands time before. Now you've given a misleading statement that's going to be used to show consciousness of guilt, you've locked yourself into a version of events, and you've exposed yourself to prosecution. There was a time when the feds only very rarely prosecuted people for saying "I didn't do it" during an interview. Those days are past. Now, even though it is a chickenshit charge, feds routinely charge people both with the underlying offense and with false statement to the government for when the client lies to them in the interview. SHUT UP SHUT UP.
- Yes, you might make the government happier by cooperating. Yes, you may reduce the chances of getting charged. You can still do that after a competent lawyer debriefs you, evaluates your risks, trains you on how to act in an interview, and communicates with the government about your status. A lawyer may be able to get you an immunity guarantee for the interview. If the cops you are dealing with are inclined to shaft you for lawyering up, then they are the sort who would have shafted you one way or the other sooner or later anyway. The cops who are trying to convince you that things will go badly for you if you don't talk right now DO NOT HAVE YOUR BEST INTERESTS AT HEART. They are trying to frighten you into talking without caring whether it is in your best interests.
(From this aptly named entry)