Comedian Ron White has a crowd-pleasing bit about his arrest for drunken behavior at a New York bar, and his conversation during that event with the police. Alcohol had loosened his tongue, and he baited them, playing the smartass. As he recalled, "I knew I had the right to keep silent. I had the right. I just didn't have the ability."
Now federal prosecutors are jumping into the ability of people to maintain their rights, and it should chill anyone interested in preserving their rights should they ever have a run-in with the law.
One of our well-known rights, as anyone who has watched a police show in the last generation well knows, is the right to be represented by an attorney, to the point that one will be appointed and paid by the state if one cannot otherwise be afforded. The idea is that people charged with a crime ought to have some support and counsel on which they can rely and in whom they can confide, so they aren't simply railroaded by overmatching expertise. That is why attorney-client confidentiality is so strictly protected in legal proceedings.
Or at least it has been. But suppose you're in a legal jam and you want the advice of a lawyer. How candid will you be with that lawyer - and, as a result, how effective can he be - if you knew that everything you said might wind up in the hands of the prosecutors? That pretty much wipes out your right to legal help, doesn't it? Under those conditions, you'd probably be as well off representing yourself. (Which - don't get us wrong - is poorly.)
Can't happen because of the attorney-client privilege, you say? Guess again.
The Eugene Register Guard reports about Roseburg attorney David Terry, apparently the lawyer for several people who have been either suspected or charged with drug offenses. On September 13, the RG says, "More than a dozen [federal] agents with a search warrant approved by a federal magistrate judge walked into the office of David Terry just after 7 a.m. and seized financial, property, business, travel and personal records of 17 people. Terry, a lawyer for 27 years, is not charged with any crime. However, he is obviously the unnamed 'Attorney A' in a 196-page federal indictment issued Wednesday that named 12 men allegedly involved in an international conspiracy to smuggle marijuana and cocaine, grow marijuana and make methamphetamine." (more…)