Book Review: But They DIDN’T Read Me My Rights!

I recently finished the book:

Cicchini, Michael D., and Amy B. Kushner. 2010. But they didn’t read me my rights!: myths, oddities, and lies about our legal system. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books.

Cicchini is a defense attorney and Kushner is a lecturer in English. Together they have come up with a easily readable book that makes law, even contract law and the law of easements, entertaining. The book begins with the obligatory disclaimer of all law books that nothing herein should be taken as actual legal advice and that laws can vary a lot from state to state. Then it is broken up into 12  sections: “That’s a crime?”, “Sex crimes”, “Problems with the police”, “Criminal process and procedure”, “Your day in criminal court”, “First kill all the lawyers”, “Contract Law: A deal is a deal.”, “Family law: love and marriage”, “Taxes: cuz I’m the taxman”, “Real property law: I know what’s mine”, “Torts: sue happy”, “Legal Education: So you want to be a lawyer?”

Within these broad topic areas are two to seven chapters that are three to five pages in length. They can be read completely out of order according to your interest. People interested in a deep dive on these topics only have to consult the nearly 40 pages worth of endnotes citing articles, statutes and relevant case law. The book also comes with an acceptable index.

The subtitle of But They DIDN”T Read Me My Rights! is “Myths, Oddities, and Lies about our Legal System” and I think the book lives up to its subtitle. The biggest surprise for me is that once you involve law enforcement, you do not have a choice about pressing charges. This is detailed in chapter 20 and implied in chapter 19, where a son’s argument with parents leads to him to being charged in adult criminal court with felony misconduct for breaking a vase. The second biggest surprise comes from a staple of cop shows — reading someone their Miranda rights at the time of their arrest. It turns out that you only need to be apprised of your right to be silent if the police decide they are going to question you.

Although the individuals chapters are very entertaining, the book as a whole paints a picture of overly intrusive local, state and federal governments. The blame for this isn’t assigned to a political party, just laid out for the reader to pick up, with occaisonal remarks from the author. I like that this lesson is allowed to be experienced by the reader than wielded as a club by the writers.

Regardless of political persuasion or current interest in law, I predict that you will enjoy this book. You may also become disturbed. Aside from trying to be more involved in lawmaking, especially at the local and state levels, I’m not sure what we can do about it.

Rating – Five out of five stars

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