What my Attorney Father Taught me about American Law as a Kid
Dad, why do people have the right to say and write things that are bad? (1st Amendment, Free Speech)
Because we don’t want the government banning opinions and ideas that may be unpopular but true.
Dad, why do people have the right to remain silent and not testify against themselves? (5th Amendment)
Because if the law required people to admit their guilt then innocent people could be punished for not cooperating with police by confessing to the crimes they’re accused of.
Dad, why does a guilty person get to go free if the police broke rules to get the evidence that proves their crime? (The Exclusionary Rule) Couldn’t the judge just say, “Police, don’t do that next time”?
Because then the police could then just keep ignoring peoples’ constitutional rights in order to get evidence—but throwing out any “fruit of the poison tree” forces the police to follow the rules every time.
Dad, why is it a good thing that guilty people can have lawyers? (6th Amendment)
First, because everyone has the right to a competent legal defense, and second, because it helps prevent the guilty from being overcharged and punished more than they deserve.
Dad, why is it good that guilty people can keep secrets with their lawyers? (Attorney-Client Privilege)
Because a lawyer has to know the true story in order to defend his client’s legitimate rights effectively.
Dad, why don’t married people have to testify against each other? (Spousal Privilege)
Because society doesn’t want to force spouses to either commit perjury by lying under oath or help send their loved one to prison.
Dad, why do married couples get special tax breaks? That doesn’t seem fair.
Because the government wants to encourage men and women to get married so that their children will be raised in a healthy, stable environment and grow up to be good members of society.
Dad, why are donations to charity tax-deductible?
Because society wants to encourage people to support charities and other non-profit organizations.
Dad, what should I do if the police want to question me?
Invoke your (6th amendment) right to have your lawyer with you, invoke your (5th amendment) right to remain silent, and then stop talking!