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I Shot The Clerk

In all honesty, I probably learned more about being a lawyer from my all-time favorite movie, My Cousin Vinny, than I did sitting through 3 years of law shool. To this day, every time I walk into a juvenile court room, I keep wanting to refer to all of the kids as "yutes"!

In one of my favorite scenes from that movie, Bill Gambini sits inside the police station, unknowingly being accused of shooting the store clerk. After a seemingly casual conversation, Sheriff Farley finally confronts Gambini with the accusation that he shot the clerk. Surprised, Gambini responds, "I shot the clerk?". Clearly this was not meant as a confession, but the cops had what they needed, and Gambini was arrested for murder. Later on in the movie, Sheriff Farley is seen on the witness stand testifying from a transcript of that earlier conversation. Although Gambini clearly was not admitting to anything, the Sheriff's testimony strongly implied the exact opposite.

Like many scenes from My Cousin Vinny, this one highlights an important issue in the legal system that people need to be aware of. Never submit to a police interrogation for any reason without first talking to a lawyer. By submitting to questioning without a lawyer present, you run the risk of being misinterpreted, or worse. If the police are questioning you, then there's a good chance they already have their minds made up. If that's the case then there's nothing you would be able to do or say that could possibly help your situation. By agreeing to talk to them without an attorney present, all you're doing is providing the cops with more evidence they will use to try and convict you.

Police officers are trained in all different types of interrogation tactics, and they will use all of that training in an attempt to bully you into a confession. They are not your friends, and they are most certainly not on your side. Keep in mind that they have a job to do, and if you find yourself involved in one of their investigations, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! No matter what they tell you or what they promise, they are not there to help you.

You have a constitutional right to remain silent. This right can never be held against you for any reason. It's there for your protection, so exercise it! Ask to talk to a lawyer as early and often as possible. The law requires all custodial interrogations to cease upon the suspect's request for counsel, but this doesn't always happen. I have encountered many cases where cops will attempt to bend, or even break the rules and let the courts deal with it later. Know your rights! Don't be intimidated, and don't give any statements without a lawyer present.

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