Share this article

print logo

The ABCs of legalese

This is the perfect book for anyone who got his or her legal education at Law & Order Law School or the Legal Institute of CSI. In other words, a book for "students" whose understanding of the American legal system goes only as deep as the oversimplified glitz of popular TV shows.

Michael Cicchini and Buffalo native Amy Kushner have penned a breezy, quick-read guide through the labyrinth of the law.

The authors have one main goal: to correct the many misconceptions people have about the law, through an easy-to-read style that almost pokes fun at the profession's pretentious legalese.

And they have succeeded.

This is no muddy literary tour filled with "quid pro quo" and "per se" and "fiduciary." Instead, this is a quick legal education -- fast-food style.

Like any good lawyers, the authors start with a disclaimer, explaining why readers should not rely on the book for legal advice.

Each of the short 53 chapters starts with a question. A few examples: Can you be convicted of a crime without any evidence? Can the police lie to you when they interrogate you? Can you be convicted of drunk driving if you're not driving the car?

Many of the answers, of course, fly in the face of common perception. Otherwise, there wouldn't be much need for this book.

One of the most interesting chapters, as teased in the title, asks whether police have to read you your rights when they arrest you.

Under the law, the authors write, police have to give you the Miranda warning only if you are under arrest AND they intend to question you. So after arresting you, the police, instead of questioning you, may tell you things, such as the fact that a witness saw you break into a house. Anything you say in response can be used against you, because you weren't being "questioned." Or, police can question you without arresting you, again getting around the pair of factors that require a warning.

Can your request for a lawyer hurt you in an eventual trial?

"Generally speaking, the law states that your post-Miranda request for a lawyer cannot be used against you in court," the authors state. "So the warning really isn't that accurate or informative to begin with."

Don't tell that to Lt. Horatio Caine or District Attorney Jack McCoy.

Gene Warner is a News reporter.


But They Didn't Read Me My Rights!: Myths, Oddities and Lies About Our Legal System

By Michael D. Cicchini and Amy B. Kushner

Prometheus Books

275 pages, $19

There are no comments - be the first to comment