Can law enforcement lie to you during an interview? They most certainly can and often do. Therefore, the deeper question we explore here is: when can the police lie to you, and under what circumstances? Further, what steps can you take to protect your rights if the police authorities question you?
The U.S Supreme Court allows the police to use deception techniques (lying) during a criminal investigation; however, there are limits. The police cannot use this powerful psychological ploy to coerce an innocent person to confess to a crime they did not commit. Further, it is unlawful if a statement is obtained from a suspect in a way that violates their legal rights, highlighted below:
- Statements made due to a suspect’s psychological mistreatment with threats or false assurances
- Confessions elicited without following established rules and principles
- Misrepresenting a suspect’s legal rights
Why Does Law Enforcement Lie During an Interview?
Defense attorneys often see cases where innocent and guilty people are persuaded to confess due to heavy-handed police interrogation techniques. After all, a police interview is designed to produce confessions. As such, an attending officer may use psychological tactics such as lying as a means to:
- Make you feel “at ease” during an interview, making you more likely to comply with their questioning
- Compel you to confess to a crime
- Discredit an alibi
- Obtain evidence or information that could lead to an arrest
Confessions are the most incriminating and persuasive evidence of guilt that the State can bring against a defendant. The purpose of a defense lawyer is to help shield you from coercive interview techniques while protecting your rights during the interview.
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What Should I Do to Protect My Legal Rights?
The best way to avoid incriminating yourself is by saying nothing at all without first talking to your lawyer. This is mainly because:
- Talking does not help you. The police are questioning you because they believe you are involved in criminal activity.
- Anything you say can be used against you but cannot be used for you.
- There is no rush! You should never feel pressured into giving a statement or answering any questions without being allowed to consult with your lawyer first.
Keep in mind, even if you have already answered some questions, you can calmly invoke your right to remain silent at any point during the interview and request to speak to an attorney.
What Can the Police Lie to You About?
Below, we explore examples of deception techniques used in police questioning.
Evidence Against You
“We have your fingerprints at the scene of the crime.”
An investigating officer can make false claims about having obtained evidence. These can include having a witness, DNA, or fingerprints from the crime scene linking you to the offense, even if no such evidence exists.
The goal here is to pressure you into talking, perhaps to defend yourself, especially when there may be little or no evidence to support the case against you. Lying about the evidence against a suspect during a criminal investigation is generally accepted by the U.S Supreme Court.
Threats or Promises of Leniency
“If you do not make a statement, you will go to jail.”
“Making a statement will get you a lighter sentence.”
For a confession to be admissible as evidence, the suspect must make it voluntarily without threats or incentives. The police do not have the authority to promise a shorter sentence or make a deal. Only a prosecutor has the power to do this.
It is unlawful for a police officer to coerce you into making a statement by using intimidation or enticements such as those listed above. However, language along the lines of “I just want to help you out here” is legal. A vague implication suggesting things will be better without being overly specific is acceptable under the law.
Recording Your Conversation
“It’s ok to tell me what happened; this will be off the record.”
To encourage you to speak without your lawyer present, an officer may falsely claim you will not be recorded or be ‘on record.’ Remember, any time you are questioned, what you say can be used against you in court.
Having a Confession Implicating You from Someone Else
“We already have a confession from your friend about what you did.”
If you are told someone else has confessed to what happened, it makes sense to consider why the police are still questioning you. But, unfortunately, this bluff is often used to persuade you to answer questions that could incriminate you.
What Should I Do If the Police Want to Question Me?
While criminal defense attorneys are generally hired after an arrest, you must understand that even ‘informal questioning’ could lead to an arrest if you do not protect your rights.
If a police officer approaches you at home or on the street, ask if you are being detained. If you are free to leave, then do. If not, say you wish to speak to a lawyer, then remain silent. Remember, an arrest will stay on your record, even if you are acquitted of a crime. This can have serious implications for your personal and professional life as the details are accessible as public records.
Your lawyer may be able to prevent arrests or charges before they happen. If you are arrested, invoking your right to remain silent until your lawyer is present means you do not do or say anything that can be used against you in court at a later date.
In short, the single best thing you can do during a police interview, even if you are innocent of a crime, is: remain calm and politely decline to answer any questions without your lawyer present.
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Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent and Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
Blass Law provides supportive advocacy when you want a responsive attorney with trial experience and a focus on criminal defense. Don’t leave your future to chance; call (713) 225-1900 for legal advice now. Jay Cohen is ready to support you in your fight for a fair outcome.