“You Have the Right to Remain Innocent.”

Never ever talk to the police.  This, in short, is the message of law professor James J. Duane’s book “You have the right to remain innocent.”

It was never planned

This professor accidentally stumbled on a hot topic when one of his lectures were filmed in 2008 and gone viral.  He never planned for this to be his specialty.

The Fifth   

The lecture was about the Fifth Amendment and how it should protect against self-incrimination.   Professor Duane spoke out against the false idea that people have that merely ‘taking the Fifth’ is already an admission of guilt.  So, they’d rather speak to the police.

His lecture opened the floodgates for phone calls, emails, letters and many invitations to speak.

What is the book about?

The gist of his book centers on the fact it is downright dangerous to tell the police anything, even if you are innocent.

The police can interpret anything you say as a lie or may not or won’t be able to remember exactly what you said, later.  They could trick you into making a false confession by bending the truth themselves.

Eyewitnesses can’t be trusted and together with bogus ‘expert’ testimony, you could be facing serious jail time for something you haven’t even done.

You cannot know all violations

The description of crimes in the United States Codebook is so complex that even a judge complained about it in 1998.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said that no-one can be expected to know all of the thousands of criminal law regulations.  So, even if you are innocent, you can unknowingly implicate yourself, because of poorly written laws where nearly everything can be a potential crime.

An example

So, you are talking to a police officer.   You don’t have anything to hide, so why not? He just wanted to ask you a few questions.   You can’t help it, but you are very edgy during the interrogation.   The courts have accepted this is a sign of guilt.  

Or, you are quiet and collected.  Nothing can faze you.  The police officer thinks you are too calm.   The courts have accepted this as a sign of guilt.  

See the problem that Duane accidentally uncovered?  No matter what you do, you might implicate yourself by talking to law enforcement.

Even if you decide to plead the Fifth, it can also be seen as an admission of guilt.   It can be used against you at trial if you assert the Fifth Amendment clumsily.  It is better to not use it.  The whole system is stacked against suspects.

 The way out

 There is only one way out.  Professor Duane suggests you simply only utter these four words:

“I want my lawyer.”

Of course, there are common sense situations where you are required to talk to the police.  You could have been the victim of a crime, or an eyewitness to an accident. Speak to the police, there and then, while you are at the scene.  Should they require you to go to the station for a more in-depth interview, state the magic words: “I want my lawyer.”


Professor Duane’s whole book is full of case histories where people were wrongly incarcerated because of information they gave to the police themselves.

You do have to worry, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.  This is the message of the book.

“It was my aim with the book to shape the conduct of less sophisticated people, those who are innocent,” Duane said in an interview.

Perhaps most worrying is the response from law enforcement.  It’s been overwhelmingly positive.  “It’s all true”, they say.  And the truth, in this case, should really scare you.