Using illegal drugs is illegal.

Yet Obama and Steve Jobs confess that freely. Write a book about it.

Imagine if they confess to murder instead. That would be problematic.

So why?

1 Answer 1

  1. Not all illegal things are crimes.

  2. Lack of evidence. They are asked to testify, and they say "what I said in my book was a lie". There is no general law against lying, except when under oath.

  3. Statute of limitations. Saying "10 years ago I did smoke drugs" means that any offence is no longer prosecutable.

  4. Lack of details. Which jurisdiction were they in? When did they commit the act, how many acts? You cannot be arrested for being a "bank robber" or a "murderer". You are charged with "robbing Bank X on 123 Fake Street the Thursday 25 April 2018" or "murdering Jim Thio in January 2017". Otherwise the defendant would have a hard time defending himself (how to prove that you have not killed anyone at any time?)

  5. All of the above combined with prosecutorial discretion in the form that any possible prosecutor will most likely determine that bringing charges would be just a waste of time and resources.

UPDATE February 2018: Just for the sake of completeness, a reference to the situation of Jacques Cassandri, who did boast about a serious crime(a robbery in a Societe Generale vault in 1976) in a book.

Unfortunately for him, he made some kind of mistake/miscalculation and the crime had not yet expired, so he has become an example of someone being prosecuted by confessing a crime in a book.

  • 1
    All very good points. I'm not sure if the same thing applies in the US but certainly in the UK a case will only be brought to trial if it is deemed "in the public interest". Finding the prime minister guilty of a crime that results in him spending a month in prison would likely have a net negative effect on the country, hence would not be brought forward.
    – Darren H
    Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 11:22
  • Let's assume that a) the statute of limitations hasn't been met (seems like a reasonable assumption because, I assume, there are cases of public figures admitting to things where the statute of limitations hasn't been met). Let's also assume that b) the government wants to prosecute (in order to address the question of whether or not they can technically be held liable and punished, which isn't what the OP asked, but is still an interesting question). With these assumptions, it seems that the issue is not having detail, and not having admissible evidence. (cont.) Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 4:07
  • (cont.) Wouldn't the public admission be enough for a court to order the offender to testify? That would provide evidence and detail. From there, wouldn't it be a bit of a crazy move on the offenders part to lie under oath? If it is indeed a "crazy" move to lie under oath, then an order to testify means they'll have to admit their crime, plead guilty, and be convicted. Am I wrong about any of this? Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 4:11
  • @AdamZerner No need to lie. "You claim in your memories that you did use drugs two years ago... Where you in the USA at the time? How many time did you do that? etc., etc." - "Your honour, I don't remember those details". Add that the subject will likely have public relevance and sympathies and, probably, money enough for a crack team of lawyers, and you conclude that any prosecutor who goes that way without an airtight case will appear to the public to be wasting public resources to prosecute a minor crime (that many people won't ever consider as a crime) in order to get publicity.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 8:47
  • 2
    @AdamZerner: Yes, the protection [which exists in common law countries only] explicitly extends to sworn testimony (more so than in other circumstances, but let's not get into that). "You cannot be forced to incriminate yourself" fairly obviously includes "you cannot be made to answer that question, if the answer would incriminate you". The comment thread is not the place for this discussion; if you are still confused after some research, you could ask your own question. Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 23:13

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