The author, Professor James Duane is a descendant of Judge James Duane of New
York (first judge of the federal judiciary, 1789) and has practiced civil
litigation and criminal defense for over 30 years now. He is a professor at the
Regent Law School in Virginia. The book, You have the right to remain innocent
is one of his best sellers published in 2016.
As suggested by its name, the book talks about the innocent people and also
deals with the application of the Fifth Amendment Right in America, which is
also known as the right to remain silence. The book has been divided in three
parts, namely, don't talk to the police; don't plead the fifth; and plead the
- The first part talks about how complex, lengthy and broad are American
laws. According to Duane, every citizen commits an average of three felonies
a day and are not even aware that they are breaking the law.
For example, a few
years ago, young sailors freed a 500- pound sea turtle who was entangled in a
buoy line wrapped around its head and fins but were later told by an agent from
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that what they did was
illegal and violation of Endangered Species Act. It also tells us to not to talk
to the police at all because anything you say can be used against you in the
Even if you think that you are innocent and that you have got nothing to
hide, you really should be careful with the police. The police is allowed by law
to lie to you about anything to everything. They can lie about if you are a
suspect, about the case they are investigating or if they are investigating a
case related to you at all.
They can lie about providing you with help if you
agree to talk to them or trick you into believing that it is in your best
interest if you co-operate with them but that may actually mean getting you
behind the bars for actually speaking to them and using your statements against
you. In one of the cases quoted by James Duane in the book, it is seen that the
police were looking for a man for the offence of rape and he went down to the
police because he had nothing to hide.
However, when the police asked him about
his whereabouts and alibis at the time of the alleged crime, he mixed them up by
mistake and ended up spending a decade in the prison before he was proved
innocent by the results of a DNA test. the police will try to trick you by
putting you under custody for several hours until you tell them what they wanted
to hear all along.
There are many other cases where the innocent has been
prosecuted by using their statement against them in the court, when all they
wanted was to get out of the custody as soon as possible and therefore tell
them what they wanted to hear. The simple solution to get out of this suffering
is to refuse to talk to the police by invoking the right to remain silent.
- The second part, Don't plead the fifth, somehow contradicts the
first part because it asks us not to invoke the same right. Earlier, the
supreme court stated that the fifth amendment, while sometimes a shelter to
the guilty, is often a protection to the innocent. Duane backs up this by
quoting several instances and cases.
In one of the cases (early 2008), where an FBI agent asked Gillman Long if
she could question him, told him he was not under arrest and that he could
back out or stop at any point he wants, Long was imprisoned. During the
questioning, he said, I don't want to incriminate myself', which the
prosecution lawyer used against him by saying that it implies that if he
speaks anymore of the subject, it might put him under danger. This is
completely false. Even though there was no proof of any criminal account or
activity on behalf of Long, he was sent to prison for life without parole.
It is therefore seen that even if you invoke your right to remain silent at
any point during the questioning, it can be used against you in the court.
- The third part, plead the sixth very briefly talks about invoking
the sixth amendment law instead of fifth. The sixth one says that you have
the right to have a lawyer. He put special emphasis on the fact that even if
you do not want to be rude to the police, do not be too polite and say I
think I need a lawyer or Do you think I need a lawyer?. They may
ignore these requests and continue with questioning you. Instead, just say
I want a lawyer until they realize that they are talking to someone
who knows how the law system works in America.
The book is completely on how flawed the American legal system is and how
policemen trick the citizen into saying things the latter wouldn't have spoken
otherwise. This creates an negative image of the police, law makers and the
judiciary. All the policemen want to do is to catch the right criminal and as we
all know; they don't give in easily. It is their job to catch the criminal,
however, this book suggests that the American legal system focuses on closing
cases more than on imparting justice.
On the bright side, the book is very precisely and skillfully written. It is an
eye-opening book for Americans and for people belonging to other parts of the
world. This book highlights how innocent people have lost several years of their
lives to imprisonment because they decided to talk to the police. It is a
knowledgeable book for law students and is a must read for all. It also makes a
logically strong argument for you to exercise your rights. This book is
well-illustrated and beautifully explained by the author. It gives valuable
insights and is an easy read.