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The Land of the Free

Did you know that it is a crime to tell a lie to the federal
government? Even if your lie is oral and not under oath? Even if you
have received no warnings of any kind? Even if you are not trying to
cheat the government out of money? Even if the government is not
actually misled by your falsehood? Well it is.

[…]

To begin with, you are not qualified to know whether you are innocent of wrongdoing under federal criminal law.

(extra emphasis, mine)

That was written by a criminal defense attorney, as part of an article on how to protect yourself, not as part of an advertisement for his services. Stop! Stop and ponder, for just a moment, the full implications of that portion in bold and how it is that it could come to this in a so-called "Land of the Free."

Well, I was going to do point-by-point commentary on the whole very fine article ("fine," only because of the extent to which it exposes the very nature of the things I’ve been saying, if you’ve been paying attention). But you know what? This is of the sort of importance where you just need to take the 5 minutes and read that article carefully and take it to heart. And not because of some anti-state point that I want to make, but because your ability to stay out of jail someday for something you haven’t the slightest clue in the world is upon you just might depend on what you glean from it.

Never, ever talk to the police, state, or federal investigators / prosecutors, under any pretense or for any reason whatsoever (including as a witness), without first consulting a [good] criminal-defense attorney. No exceptions, ever.

(via Brad)

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

9 Comments

  1. Richard Nikoley on June 6, 2006 at 14:27

    "but why would you need to lie to the federal government in the first place?"

    Oh, I can think of about a thousand reasons. Can't you? How about: we're talking about an entity that will, under threat of deadly force, lock you up for years for lying to them.

    I just can't help but ask: are you a goddamned 4-year-old? What is it–what happened to you–to make you so submissive and slave-minded?

  2. george w buddha on June 6, 2006 at 14:01

    Okay, I get what you're saying, but why would you need to lie to the federal government in the first place?

  3. Billy Beck on June 7, 2006 at 05:58

    "Never, ever talk to the police, state, or federal investigators / prosecutors, under any pretense or for any reason whatsoever (including as a witness), without first consulting a [good] criminal-defense attorney. No exceptions, ever."

    I've done it. Lots. It's also true that I kept my own copies of Criminal Procedure Law as well as any statutes pertinent to any case (which were all DMV law), and put in about a million hours at the required homework. (You might remember me saying the other night, Rich, "If I'd wanted to be an accountant, I wouldn't have become a lighting director." Well, I only distilled that after all my time defending my rights as a lawyer.)

    This is a very touchy thing with me. I can think of all kinds of good reasons to refute what you say, starting with the eminent fact that it just makes their skin crawl to see any ordinary peasant handling the law on his own, on their terms. When it's done right, the fits they get are a righteous thing to see. And, as with lots of politics today, if more people were able to do it, things would generally start heading in a better direction.

    The thing that finally stills my dispute with you is the fact that most people are in no way — epistemically, ethically, politically, etc. — capable of going at it, so it's best that they don't get involved.

  4. Kyle Bennett on June 7, 2006 at 07:28

    Billy,

    "When it's done right, the fits they get are a righteous thing to see. And, as with lots of politics today, if more people were able to do it, things would generally start heading in a better direction."

    So are we beyond a political solution, or not?

    I'm not suited for it – maybe epistemically, ethically, politically – but not tempermentally. I don't have the patience for the bullshit, and the restraint necessary for dealing with it on their terms.

    I'd love to see the fits you cause them, but it's not about them. Freedom can't happen through them, it can only happen without them. Even if large numbers of people started doing these things, they would just adjust. They're like the internet, they just route around any damage.

    Fighting them legally is like trying to rid your house of cockroaches with a rifle. You have to clear the nest. Their nest isn't the law, (law is just the trail of droppings and occasional carcasses that let you know they're still there, somewhere), it isn't Washington DC or the state capitals, its the nooks and crannies in the dilapidated epistemological and metaphysical house this country has built for itself. Patch those holes, and stop leaving crumbs laying around for them, and the infestation will dry up.

  5. Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2006 at 07:37

    "The thing that finally stills my dispute with you is the fact that most people are in no way — epistemically, ethically, politically, etc. — capable of going at it, so it's best that they don't get involved."

    As the guy said, "…you are not qualified to know whether you are innocent of wrongdoing under federal criminal law." That is a true statement concerning the 99%.

    If you're the rare individual who is competent to know and understand "the system" as it pertains specifically to the circumstances of the matter, then you're handling the matter as a competent attorney would anyway.

    And that's the crux of it, well at least in part. The other part is that as the tax-protesters have found out, you cannot count on the government to follow its own laws to the letter. In other words, if they want to get you, they'll find a way to do it.

    For me, personally, it just comes down to the division of labor. In the sort of moral context in which you and I deal, hiring an attorney to go up against the United States or one of its constituent states on your behalf is really no different than hiring a well-armed security guard or mercenary fighter. Let them do what they do best and I can continue doing what I do best in trade.

    If I could count on prosecutors and the state to exercise sound, objective moral judgment as a standard of right and wrong, then I'd be happy to go up against them, or hire you or any of a number of other people who know what they're doing. Of course, if that was the case the 99% would still have the same dilemma, only guys like us would have another business opportunity on our hands.

  6. Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2006 at 07:48

    I didn't see Kyle's post until after I posted mine, but it does raise a question I thought of but didn't pursue.

    B, now I can see hiring an attorney out of the pure pragmatic necessity of saving my ass when I haven't hurt anyone and some prosecutor wants another notch on his club so that it propels him to the next pay grade come promotion time. Doing that is dealing with them on their own terms, of course, through an agent. But I don't get how I could benefit by having to deal on their terms myself, or why I would want to. Competently dealing with them involves immediately conceding their premise that the law is the ultimate authority in the matter. Though there might be a small chance for mitigating their ferocity through shaming them with moral arguments, I sure wouldn't count on it, and as you well know, unless you can cite chapter and verse in the law, it generally falls on deaf ears.

    And that's with prosecutors and judges. Hell, you can't even reasonably count on jury nullification, anymore, even if the state is committing a clear and obvious injustice.

  7. Thaed on June 7, 2006 at 16:31

    The sad thing is that the attorney probably doesn't know that much either, the judge knows even less and the prosecutor is just trying to keep his or her numbers up.

  8. Billy Beck on June 8, 2006 at 05:48

    Kyle: "So are we beyond a political solution, or not?"

    That essay was ten years old, just last month. Curious. I hadn't noticed.

    You know what? "Political" is not the best word. I should have chosen "electoral", and here's why: civil disobedience, for example, is "political", in that its aim is to modifiy social relations between individuals, and this is the whole domain of that classical branch of philosophy known as "politics".

    It's not exactly a show-stopping point, but I realize that I might have done a paltry bit for refining the lexicon.

    I understand your temperamental misfit. It finally came to me, too, mostly for the reasons you state.

  9. James Shott on June 8, 2006 at 20:43

    Remember Martha Stewart?

    Remember Scooter Libby?

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