The Law

An Open Letter from SGC: Be Smart

One of the interesting things about the Internet is that anyone can be anything. Sometimes, it is done innocently. Sometimes, not so much. Knowledge is good but understanding the knowledge you have inquired about is even better.

It is important to understand that I am a skeptic. I am somewhere between a hardcore conspiracy theorist and someone who believes nothing he reads. It can be a confusing prospect, but I have grown comfortable with my mindset. 

Recently, I had open heart surgery. I looked up information about my procedure. I had a bad aortic valve and a damaged aortic root. I even made a video about my recovery. 

I learned everything I could about the surgery I was about to have. It brought me comfort even in my worried times. I learned more about the aortic system then I ever dreamed I would ever know. Knowledge was good. 

When it came time to find an outstanding surgeon, with help of family I found the best heart surgeon and hospital in the region, Sentara Heart Hospital. And this was when I had to trust the experts. I did not at any time think I would not get the best surgeon I could find, but after I found him, I let him work his magic. I was extremely satisfied. 

Today, many people take the first step. They research the topic and instead of finding an expert to help them through their situation they start to believe they are the experts. This is when everything has the potential to fall apart. Reading a few articles or source documents does not make anyone an expert. 

It is good to have knowledge. It is good to have a basis of facts so you can discuss your situation with clarity. No one is asking people to stay ignorant but do not confuse a little knowledge with being an expert.  

I spent almost 30 years in law enforcement. I had my ups and downs, but I loved my job. Interestingly, it was not unusual to have someone who thought they knew the law begin to argue with officers about anything from local ordinances to state law. Often, they had just enough knowledge to get themselves in trouble. This situation has increased tenfold since the advent of the Internet. 

When it comes to the law, it is important to know your rights.  And “you have the right to remain silent” is a good place to start.  The comedian, Ron White, had a great line in his standup routine. Discussing his impending arrest over a disturbance, Ron said it all when he stated, “I knew I had the right to remain silent. I just didn’t have the ability.” 

Here is a quick review of your Miranda Rights:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we ask you any questions. You have the right to have a lawyer with you during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. If you decide to answer questions now without a lawyer present, you have the right to stop answering at any time.

There are your basic rights. Know them. Learn them and understand them. They can protect your basic rights as a citizen.  However, understanding these rights does not make you a legal scholar.

It would be a full-time job to count how many laws and regulations there are in America. It is an unbelievable number, and each law can change from state-to-state or even town-to-town. So, for anyone to say they know everything about the law, especially someone without a law degree, can be dangerous. 

We need to protect ourselves. We need to be knowledgeable.  But we all need to be cautious. Do not let our internet curiosities make us think that we know stuff that we really do not know.  And, more importantly, don’t listen to friends or relatives or anyone else and let them convince you that they are experts. 

As time progresses, I will write more about protecting yourself and your loved ones. We want to be smart, but we want facts to be verified. SGC is going to work with you to be smart. Not internet smart, but factually smart.

Until next time,

Joseph St. John

Owner and Publisher of SGC