Paul Ohm in Freedom to Tinker:

With this post, I’m launching a new, (very) occasional series I’m calling YANAL, for “You Are Not A Lawyer.” In this series, I will try to disabuse computer scientists and other technically minded people of some commonly held misconceptions about the law (and the legal system).

I’ve worked with law enforcement folks on a number of occasions, and have generally been surprised/impressed at the level of concern for civil rights, and appreciation of wider societal issues. Government abuse of civil rights absolutely happens, without any question. But as an ornery civil rights advocate, I have to say I’ve met mostly good people, who are trying to do a difficult and complex job as well as possible.

That said, you should expect the cops to understand the rules of engagement very well (i.e., almost certainly better than you), and to aggressively use the tools available to them in building cases that prosecutors can turn into convictions.

See also “Eight reasons even the innocent shouldn’t talk to the police“, which should be mandatory viewing in high school social studies classes.


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