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Know your rights: Speak no evil . . .

AMENDMENT V: "No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law . . ." [1791]

These are interesting times for speech. On the one hand, we're nearly completely unbridled. Where we used to have to go to the Public Square and stand on a soap box to be heard, now the public square is right here, right now, via blogging, twitter, Face Book, and forums such as this one. As the saying goes, opinions are like . . . Well, let's just say everyone has one. And to that point, it takes a gentle person to suffer ignorance and smile.

However, the same does not apply to your interaction with law enforcement. To paraphrase Ron White, while you certainly have the right to remain silent, you may forget that you have the ability. Here is where you may find that your mouth can get you in trouble - or perhaps in more trouble. Keep in mind, when the focus of attention by law enforcement is on you for whatever reason, you have the right to remain silent. Your demeanor and your words can make all the difference between whether you get arrested, cited, a verbal warning, or simply the salutation to have a nice day. Note well, too, that you may say something susceptible of more than one meaning - what you intend to be exculpatory may sound, to the trained ear of a law enforcement officer, like you just made his case.

For example, remember the SNL skit where Ed Asner is retiring from his last day as an engineer at Three Mile Island? When asked for his parting advice, he says: "You can never put too much water in the nuclear reactor." When the core starts to meltdown, the question is: should they pump in more, or have they reached the high-water mark already? Unfortunately, we all know they interpreted Ed's advice incorrectly.

So, understand this advice: you have the right to remain silent. Be nice. Be polite. But you don't have to make the case for the State. Be quiet. And call your attorney.

John C. Kaspar, Esq., Gray and Duning, (513) 932-2871.

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