The purpose of this essay is to educate citizens about the issues that arise as a consequence of 18 U.S.C. Section 1001.
The apparent contradiction between the USConstitution and the reality of numerous convictions based solely on a “lying to the FBI” charge under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 brings us to address this situation and to encourage further review and discussion of its impact on good citizens. By the way, it’s not just the FBI that can hold you accountable for your misstatements, real or imagined. It’s most any federal person; even the clerk at the social security office. Think about that. Just one more reason to not want to have anything to do with the public servants whose pay/benefits/pensions you fund!
There are just so many situations now where a citizen can be charged with lying to the federal government. It is almost impossible to live a normal life – be an employee; own a company; file tax returns; apply for social security or Medicare; engage in almost routine activities and not encounter a form; a question; an oath or some form of statement or declaration that opens a citizen up to the charge of lying to the FBI or some other government agency/bureaucracy or person.
And, if you think it will never happen to you, ask Martha Stewart, Libby, the Scooter or, most recently, a brilliant public servant as Rod Blagojevich. Even when you have committed no crime, you can be charged with the crime of lying to the FBI if they deem a statement from you to be untruthful. And guess who most jurors believe when a citizen is charged with this offense? And, this situation can occur with the feds presenting nothing but lies in their confrontation and questioning with you. Very strange system you might think. They can lie to you with no consequence and you go to jail for up to five years for lying to them. Very strange indeed.
So, you might ask, why would you lie to the FBI? You have no reason to lie to the FBI. You’re a good guy/gal/person. Your mother likes you; your spouse still speaks to you; dogs don’t snarl as you go by; little birdies fly around you; you even let some creep into the open lane after he bypasses a 1.5 mile line of cars who moved over when they saw the merge left sign. You tell the truth most all the time. So let it go. Tell them what they want to hear. Oh, if only life were so simple.
Let’s take a look at the big law – the one we always quote when we think the government is overreaching and mistreating us. What does it say about self incrimination? What does it say about lying to the FBI?
USConstitution, Amendment 5: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor 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; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Compelled … to be a witness against himself. So what does that mean?
Check out this video entitled, “Don’t talk to the police.” http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4097602514885833865#
Now, in case you want to hear the other side of the issue, which if you pay attention is really a compelling argument for not talking to the police, just click on here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4097602514885833865#docid=6014022229458915912
So, what’s a body to do? Well, we sure can’t give legal advice and we darn well should not be giving legal advice in a country with more lawyers than any other place in the known galaxy. Let’s read what a lawyer says about talking to the police and how you may wish to handle yourself if you ever find yourself being questioned about darn near anything. Just click on: http://library.findlaw.com/2004/May/11/147945.html
So, the lawyer says you should say, “I’d like to speak with my lawyer.” Self serving? Perhaps. Good advice? Well, we’re inclined to give it some thought; just in case.
In closing, please share this posting with anyone you know who may, inadvertently, accidentally, never with malice, but nevertheless, find themselves in a questioning moment with someone from the government who is there to help.
Last, the law that creates the jeopardy for lying to a federal personage is known as 18 U.S.C. Section 1001. You can read it at: http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/18/I/47/1001 It is not easy reading. It is written by lawyers to confuse citizens so that they will need to hire lawyers to tell them what the laws says and what they did or are accused of doing. Nice system, huh?
And finally. There is really only one big set of rules. The really big Fundamentals. Most of know these guidelines as the Ten Commandments. We know these rules because if we've one functioning brain cell remaining we know that we may well have to account for our behavior vis-à-vis these big rules and this accountability carries with it a rather profound and lasting consequence. So, to the issue of lying and the big set of rules. Here is the pertinent commandment: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." Nothing about lying to the FBI mind you unless you are telling fibs about the guy/gal next door. Then you have a much bigger concern than the feds. So, we think it's best to tell the truth, mostly. We think you had darn well better mind your p's and q's though when talking about your neighbors. That's coming straight from the Big Guy/Gal.