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Lawyering up does not spell


By David Cmelik

In an interview with an FBI special agent, she is asked whether she tried to escape. She answers that she didn’t try to escape because the robbers had guns. The interviewer then asks her whether they “just” let her go. Understanding how it looks—she looks like an accomplice—she asks, “should I have a lawyer?” As a footnote, that equivocal answer is insufficient to invoke the right to an attorney. She should have said, “I want a lawyer.” Those simple words in Iowa end an interrogation that cannot be reinitiated by law enforcement for another two weeks. The FBI agent answers: “this isn’t very civil libertarian of me but anyone who lawyers up is guilty. I think you’re okay.” Really? So, what if the FBI didn’t think she was okay? Well, then talking would contribute to the agent’s case against her even if she were innocent. She is innocent. But the agent doesn’t know that. And that’s where life imitates art. No interviewer actually “knows” whether someone is guilty although investigators sometimes think they do. Some officers think there are such things as biometric “tells” like fidgeting or avoiding eye contact. Some think a polygraph—universally debunked by science and inadmissible in Iowa courts unless both the prosecution and defendant stipulate to its admission—will assist their investigation. Some feel very strongly it is a “tool” among many in a toolbox available to law enforcement. Law enforcement all over the country make mistakes. A handful are malicious. Most are not. But this is important: all are humaInvoking the right to an attorney and to remain silent is a constitutional right for a reason. The right protects both the innocent and the guilty. But it’s intended to protect most of all against police overreaching.  A blog is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading a blog or by sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet.