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Why aren’t musicians arrested for admitting to crimes?

On Behalf of | May 31, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Many musicians admit to illegal activity in the lyrics of their songs. A famous example is Johnny Cash, who wrote a song claiming to have shot another individual, who then passed away from their injuries. But there are plenty of less high-profile examples, as well. Lil Peep wrote songs about drinking before he was 21 years old, for instance, and many musicians write songs about illegally using prescription medication to get high.

The reason that these lyrics don’t lead to arrests is twofold. For one thing, artists have artistic license. Johnny Cash may have written that lyric, but that doesn’t mean he actually shot someone. Many artists use a persona and they are essentially pretending to be a specific character.

It is not enough evidence on its own

The second thing to consider is that the lyrics themselves are not strong enough evidence to get a conviction. Someone isn’t going to be arrested for saying that they abused Percocet or sold cocaine, for instance. But they could be arrested if they are caught with pills or cocaine on their person.

There have been some cases where musicians have had their lyrics used as evidence against them. For instance, the rapper Young Thug was arrested for firearms and drug charges, and some of his lyrics were included in the indictment. He wasn’t arrested because of the lyrics, but prosecutors say that those lyrics demonstrate the lifestyle he and others were living.

Naturally, something like this is highly controversial, and there are many to think it is problematic to use an artist’s work against them. Those who are facing criminal charges need to be well aware of their defense options.