Fifth Amendment

After Arresting Driver for Silence, Cops Tell Her She Has a Right to Remain Silent

New Jersey state troopers said declining to answer a question is a crime.

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New Jersey State Police

After New Jersey state troopers arrested Rebecca Musarra for remaining silent, they informed her, "You have the right to remain silent." That should have been a clue that something was amiss with their legal justification for hauling her off to jail.

According to a federal lawsuit filed by Musarra, a Philadelphia attorney, and dashcam footage recently obtained by NJ Advance Media, Trooper Matthew Stazzone pulled her over for speeding on October 16 and asked for her license, registration, and proof of insurance. She handed over the documents but did not respond when Stazzone asked her a question. He repeated the question several times, becoming increasingly agitated and warning her that she would be arrested if she did not answer. Here is the vitally important question that Stazzone kept asking: "Do you know why you're being pulled over tonight?"

In other words, Stazzone was trying to get Musarra to incriminate herself. She declined to do so. Mind you, she did not say, "I decline to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate me," or "I am asserting my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent." But she did eventually identify herself as an attorney, saying she was not legally required to answer Stazzone's question. Unimpressed, he proceeded to handcuff and arrest her with the assistance of another trooper, Demetric Gosa.

When Musarra asked if she was being arrested for remaining silent, Gazzone replied, "Yeah." Gosa added, "Yes. Obstruction." New Jersey defines obstruction of justice as impeding the administration of the law "by means of flight, intimidation, force, violence, physical interference, or through any independently unlawful act." Sitting quietly in your car while a cop asks if you know why you were pulled over does not fall into any of those categories.

Musarra says she was patted down twice, taken to the state police barracks in Washington, and placed in a holding cell, where she was handcuffed to a bench. After a supervisor, Trooper James Butler, watched the dashcam video, he realized there was no legal basis for the arrest. According to Musarra, Butler said "a mistake was made, and to chalk it up to training, and that [Stazzone] was just a rookie."  She was released two hours after the traffic stop. She was neither charged nor cited.

A state police spokesman told NJ Advance Media the incident is under investiigation. "In the event that problems are identified," he said, "training and/or disciplinary measures are implemented where appropriate." In response to Musarra's lawsuit, the state argues that Stazzone and Gosa "acted in good faith and without fraud or malice."

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  1. Let the lawsuits begin.

    1. *** RTFA ***

      In response to Musarra’s lawsuit, the state argues that Stazzone and Gosa “acted in good faith and without fraud or malice.”

      Oh, well — “reasonable mistake of law”.

      1. Ignorance of the law is an excellent excuse.

        1. SCOTUS has in fact ruled that an arrest based on a cop’s mistaken interpretation of the law is still valid. So, tough shit Musarra!

          1. Heien v. North Carolina.

          2. Yes, another epic failure of a ruling which effectively removes most accountability to the law for officers, while holding the public, whose not educated on the law, to the highest degree of accountability. In turn, this ruling has effectively nullified the rights of citizens when dealing with Gov’t enforcement (that which the constitutional protections of rights was intended most to defend against) purely on the grounds of self-proclaimed ignorance.

            1. Come now, if law enforcement personnel had to fear being held “accountable” for every little misinterpretation of the law, we would never have been able to fight back against the insidious Troll of the Net and have him convicted of harassment and various other crimes. At least we got some of them to stick! A little misinterpreting here, a little misinterpreting there, big deal. Those who protect us need to be free to act on their suspicions, so we can build a stronger, yet kinder, limper, and more ordered nation. See the documentation of America’s leading criminal “satire” case at:

              http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

        2. *As long as you’re those charged with writing or enforcing the law.

      2. In other words, it pays for police officers to be as ignorant as possible of the law, so nobody can say “they ought to have known better.”

      3. Two hours locked in a cell, and handcuffed to a bench. Where are the kidnapping and false imprisonment charges?

        Not to worry, the trooper will be spoken to harshly!!!!

      4. Mistakes were made. More cash needed for training. Procedures will be followed henceforth.

      5. The officers may have acted in good faith and without fraud, but it seems rather malicious to kidnap and imprison someone for no valid reason.

    2. Mens rea for me and not for thee.

    3. So… it’s been a year now. Where’s the roasted pig?

  2. “There is absolutely no basis to believe the claims made by this criminal from his prison cell. In addition to the fact he offers no proof to support his claims, his descriptions of Secretary Clinton’s server are inaccurate. It is unfathomable that he would have gained access to her emails and not leaked them the way he did to his other victims.”

    Guccifer

    1. Its fathomable as hell. Once he realized what he was looking at, publicizing it would have made him a very highly wanted target for US operatives, probably de facto shoot on sight.

      There’s a level of consequences for publishing a sitting SecState’s correspondence that doesn’t arise with celebrity dick pix.

    2. “There is absolutely every basis to believe the claims made by this criminal from outside her prison cell.”

        1. That and the deposition of Huma. This thing may be heating up!

          1. I’m sure Hillary let Huma Weiner know it would be worth it to lie.

            1. Hey, Huma is the only Weiner she’s touched in years

            2. Well, she, ahem, goes down, if she doesn’t lie.

  3. Rookie mistakes are best not made on professional litigators.

    1. like every profession just because the state licenses them doesn’t mean they know shit.

      1. Well, let’s just say that her credibility should be enhanced in the eyes of the state, then.

    2. Why not? It’s not like there will be any consequences.

  4. According to Musarra, Butler said “a mistake was made, and to chalk it up to training, and that [Stazzone] was just a rookie.”

    It’s funny how quickly these under-trained rookies become two or three-year “veterans” when they’re the victims and not the victimizers.

    1. So Butler is taking responsibility for this poorly trained rookie, and will be paying out of pocket in the civil suit?

  5. The speed at which they watched the dashcam and reviewed the arrest is odd and likely the result of her being an attorney. They eventually realized they were barking up the wrong tree. My hunch.

  6. OT: Anybody else notice the lack of economic coverage from Reason over the last year except for some minimum wage stuff? I recall a lot of stuff on pensions, government debt, etc… from previous years, but not so much as of late.

    1. Yup. Free markets is pretty much an historical artifact now.

      Free minds is more the thing, kinda, although maybe not so free as to have certain kinds of badthought.

      1. It’s disappointing. Who is providing good commentary on economics issues?

        1. The immensely talented Veronique de Rugy is still around. Speaking of free markets, I wonder if the clicks determine the editorial mix…

          1. de Rugy is pretty much the exception though and not nearly enough of her to offset the incessant election coverage.

            1. She’s over at Mercatus and does some stuff for NRO, I believe. Twitter, too.

          2. So commenter criticism reinforces the cosmotarian editorial policy?

        2. The economy sucks.

          There ya go. No charge for that one. I’ll be offering up my expert take on the political slate this year later, and then I’ll cap it off with a view of the state of constitutional protections of individual rights this evening. (preview: They suck)

          1. I think the interesting tidbit right now is that US oil storage facilities are slam full and China has been taking on the excess supply. There is a limit to how much they can suck up though and when their facilities are full, we’re probably looking at another deflationary round in the oil market with all of the ramifications that holds.

            1. Not so fast there – I just saw an article where a couple of experts were explaining that with shale-oil extraction technology being freely available and shale deposits being widely dispersed around the globe, oil prices were on a permanent downward slide and we will never again see expensive oil. When the experts start confidently agreeing that there’s no way humanly possible something can happen, it’s a good time to bet just the opposite. These experts I think were looking at the wide-spread availability of shale oil simply as a technical issue and discounting the fact that politics can lock that stuff back up just as if it didn’t exist at all. The cost of fracking itself doesn’t necessarily dictate the ceiling for oil prices, it’s the guys with guns who dictate the cost of fracking that dictate the ceiling for oil prices.

    2. How many stories/posts that you consider economic have they published over the past year? How many have they published in previous years?

      1. It may be just a perception on my part, with all of the Trump articles drowning out the economic coverage.

    3. Methinks you have the same rose-colored history glasses as radio stations which play golden oldies as if the other99% of terrible oldies never existed. I remember plenty of economic coverage, and a quick review shows that.

      1. As of this writing , the front H&R page has ONE, maybe two if you stretch the definition, economics articles.

        1. And can you not show some stats to compare with, say, a year ago? That was the complaint.

          And no, anecdotes and feelz are not data.

    4. For some reason Nick thinks readers here are interested in presidential campaign bullshit more than anything else. Maybe it brings in the outside eyeballs, but the regulars don’t want it. At least he didn’t bring a political junkie-moron like Weigel on board this time.

    5. I put a request for more rigorous economic and international affairs analysis with my donation this year.

      1. They’ll get Richman on that, stat.

        1. God no. Richman’s a brain short of being a brain short. He does seem to be Reason’s goto foreign affairs guy for some unfathomable reason.

    6. It might seem that way given the recent hires’ interests, but I think it’s largely your perception. There’s less from de Rugy, so that left a big hole, but there’s still plenty of talk about onerous regulations, deficit spending, taxation, etc.

    7. Let’s see, what’s been happening over the past year or so…?

      But seriously, I agree. It would be nice to see more of that.

      I wonder if perhaps there was just a whole lot of economic coverage around the whole financial crisis thing.

  7. This one is easy. You don’t have the right to remain silent until they give you the right to remain silent.

  8. “In response to Musarra’s lawsuit, the state argues that Stazzone and Gosa “acted in good faith and without fraud or malice.””

    I mean, sure they literally kidnapped her, but they didn’t do it in a mean way

  9. Butler said “a mistake was made,

    Shit happens I guess.

    1. Never Forget… to use the passive voice.

      1. I think you mean “It is not to be forgotten that the passive voice is to be used.”

  10. Passive tense FTW!

    We need to come up with a Police Press Release Drinking Game.

    a mistake was made

    1. It’s too early for…

      *rereads article*

      It’s too late for sobriety.

    2. I gave up drinking games 10 years ago, but I can really get behind this one.

    3. I gave up drinking games 10 years ago, but I can really get behind this one.

      1. I guess I’m more excited about this drinking game than I originally thought!

    4. 1) Drink each time passive voice (not tense, sorry) is used
      2) Drink a double shot if the police come to conclusions about the incident before the investigation even begins

      1. Drink each time passive voice (not tense, sorry) is used

        I hope you were drinking as you wrote that.

        1. I was trying, but Uncle Sam and his infernal “dry workplaces” make it tough.

  11. Just another example of how the police are not law enforcement officers. They are compliance officers. Their job is not to enforce the law, but to enforce their will. Do what they say or they will arrest/beat/murder you. And nothing else happens, because their job is not to enforce or uphold the law, but to make you comply. But they will never actually say that. That would be honest.

    1. I call ’em WEO’s – Whim Enforcement Officers

      1. What’s wrong with “pigs”?

  12. She was released two hours after the traffic stop. She was neither charged nor cited.

    And the guy they called to tow her car away, did he charge her?

    1. Was she compensated for her imprisonment? Would either of these fine gentlemen have volunteered to spend two hours shackled to a bench in a holding cell?

    2. another article stated the supervisor ‘took care of it’ as a ‘courtesy’ she was not charged for the towing!

  13. I guess If you respond “I don’t know why you stopped me” can fall under negligent driving. but as a lawyer she knows you can answer by taking the fifth. Sometimes it pays to not be an ass that goes both ways in this case since the cop could have just told her even if she didn’t respond.

    1. I typically say “You tell me.”

      1. I always just say “why?”

      2. I don’t know if there are any truly safe responses.

          1. “Quota?”

        1. “Because you didn’t do well in high school?”

        2. “Because you couldn’t catch up to those other guys?”

      3. “Is it because i identify as black?”

    2. It’s a trick question. If you say “I don’t know” then they may charge you with lying to a police officer. If you tell the truth then you are admitting guilt. Heads they win, tails you lose.

      1. The problem is, you truly might not know why you were pulled over. It does happen. If you’re not too much of a prick yourself, and explain (in my case, i was trying to solve an engineering issue in my head), you might get off with a warning.

        OTOH, this reminds me of the thread a week or so back about warrants and searches. There is a big difference between obstruction and being passive. If a cop has a warrant to enter my house, I’m not going to bar the door,, but I’m also not going to hold the door open for him.

        1. (in my case, i was trying to solve an engineering issue in my head)

          Driving while deriving.

        2. The problem is, you truly might not know why you were pulled over. It does happen.

          It happens all the time, because cops are dishonest and most people are not mind-readers. The last time I was pulled over I was pulled over for something that was made up. How could I reach into the cop’s grab bag of made up charges that can’t be disproved and come up with the right answer?

        3. I’ve been pulled over a grand total of 3 times in my life as a driver. Only once did I have a good idea why it was, and it was because of a loud exhaust.

      2. If you say “I don’t know” then they may charge you with lying to a police officer.

        But in reality if you say that you do know, you are lying to the police officer. It’s not possible to know why they pulled you over.

    3. “Because you’re behind quota?”

      1. “Because you thought I had donuts?”

    4. “I’m not at all sure, but maybe your radar needs recalibration? Seriously, you tell me.”

    5. Q: Do you know how fast you were driving?
      A: The more important question is ‘Do you know how fast I was driving.’

    6. I guess If you respond “I don’t know why you stopped me” can fall under negligent driving.

      So you need to be able to read cops’ minds to be a good driver?

      The correct answer is “I only know the contents of my own mind, and I’m not even sure of that”.

    7. BFYTW

  14. He’s just a rookie. As he gains experience he’ll learn that her silence caused him to fear for his life and that he needed to kill her.

  15. the state argues that Stazzone and Gosa “acted in good faith

    Of course they did.

    1. Didn’t SCOTUS rule that we need need to literally invoke our right to remain silent, lest our silence be used as evidence of guilt? I seem to remember my nuts hurting over that BS. If I’m right her silence was probable cause in Soviet America.

    2. This is another reason this “good faith” superstition as justification for bullying women and endangering public health needs to be dropped from the American Libertarian Party platform. There is no such whining in the Canadian Libertarian Party platform, for Canada absolutely forbids the coercive exercise of religious bigotry. Canadian cops are educated and gentlemanly compared to the prohi pigs hired to menace folks over victimless crime laws in These States.

  16. “Yeah.” Gosa added, “Yes. Obstruction.”

    It’s a training issue?

    Then it must be Gary Bettman is in charge of this training.

  17. Problems were identified. Training was conducted. Officers remained safe.

  18. This is bullshit. I get that the State Patrol isn’t necessarily versed in the finer points of securities fraud and insider trading rules, or may not be aware of arcane rules on land use, but since 90 percent of their day is routine traffic stops they have an obligation to be experts in the laws and rights surrounding traffic stops, vehicle searches, and operating vehicles under the influence. It’s high time the courts started slapping these guys around for not having a basic working knowledge in the tasks that they routinely engage in.

    1. Or we could not have them engaging in those routine tasks….

      Sorry, couldn’t finish that sentence. There’s no way they would stop them doing that as it brings in too much money.

    2. If my employer was forced to make a public statement as to my incompetence, I have to imagine that would at least impact my next performance review.

    3. Their job isn’t to enforce the law. That’s the thing. Their job is to look for someone doing something that bothers them, go accost that person, and fuck up their life if they don’t do as they are told. If it turns out they are actually committing an actual crime, then that’s a bonus. Because the police officer faces no consequences for any crimes they commit while in uniform, they have no incentive to know the law. They don’t care. Their job is to show you who is boss. Period. Any law enforcement is incidental.

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  20. I like how NJ state troopers’ uniform makes it look like they’re about to invade Poland.

  21. So the problem according to the police is that they give untrained people guns and immunity from consequences as a matter of course?

    1. Basically, yes. They wouldn’t like having that pointed out.

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  24. Good. I hope she sues, wins and drains their cop pension fund. I will definitely recommend her to immigrants railroaded by American Gestapo agents.

    1. It won’t drain the pension fund. Just the states general fund.

  25. “You can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride.”

    And until LEOs are held accountable for this, this will continue.

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  28. It only took her two hours to be released? Now THAT’S amazing!

  29. Sadly, I have no hope they will learn the real lesson and start treating people with respect. They will just learn how to not violate rights but continue bullying citizens.

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  33. RE: After Arresting Driver for Silence, Cops Tell Her She Has a Right to Remain Silent
    New Jersey state troopers said declining to answer a question is a crime.

    Don’t worry folks.
    After either the socialist slaver Hell Hitlery or the fascist Trump the Grump get elected, the police will get her talking in no time.
    You have to have faith in the State.

  34. in a sane society, she would’ve been justified for using force against her abductor to ensure her safety and the officer would be facing criminal prosecution.

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  39. a mistake was made

    The passive voice was used.

    I’d like a job as “enforcer for proper English in government”. I’d just go to every office, and every time someone used the passive voice, I’d snap them on the neck with a rubber band. Repeat offenders would escalate through Airsoft, BBs, rubber bullets, then real bullets.

    Problem solved.

  40. in a sane society, she would’ve been justified for using force against her abductor to ensure her safety and the officer would be facing criminal prosecution.

    ????? ???
    ???????

  41. According to Musarra, Butler said “a mistake was made, and to chalk it up to training, and that [Stazzone] was just a rookie.”

    In a better world, the rookie would have been told, “Buddy, you just failed your training. Pack up your stuff. You’re fired.” And same to the other officer involved.

    It won’t take too many firings before the rest of the cops learn to know the law better.

  42. She was released in just two hours because they realized any discussion with her was billable at $750.00 per hour or a part thereof.No need to sue, just send in the invoice.

    And you can always answer “I don’t know” because they might be pretending the left taillight is out, or maybe the right taillight is out. You just never know.

    1. I tried that once, and the deputy replied, “I think I’m more upset that you don’t know what you did.”

      If in that situation again, I believe I’ll say, “With all due respect sir, I don’t believe I’m obliged to incriminate myself.”

      What has worked well is to be friendly and engage the officer in conversation. “I’m sorry, I got a sandwich at Sheetz and wasn’t paying enough attention to how fast I was going” (got a warning for 12 miles over). Or feign surprise at how long ago the tags expired (and the inspection, and the suspended license) Got a warning for all except the license.

  43. I’d like to see an ordinary person claim they shouldn’t be charged because they didn’t know something was illegal. After they’re charged and convicted, they should then file a lawsuit for an equal protection violation, since police have been effectively codified in law as being a separate class with more rights than anyone they’re paid to protect.

    The lawsuit would be dismissed, of course, but I’d still like to see it.

  44. arrested for the “crime” of dissing a cop.

    but, better to assert your 5th A rights up front.

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  46. “There is absolutely no basis to believe the claims made by this criminal from his prison cell. In addition to the fact he offers no proof to support his claims, his descriptions of Secretary Clinton’s server are inaccurate. It is unfathomable that he would have gained access to her emails and not leaked them the way he did to his other victims.”
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