Can Cops Lie to You?

The police have brought you in for interrogation. You are feeling a whole host of emotions: fear, anger, confusion, and you simply want to get out of the station and go home. Investigators want to get the interrogation over as quickly as possible, as well. They want to get the answers they need from you and move on with their caseloads. In order to move things along, however, police officers will use a number of tactics to collect this evidence. One of these tactics, that is completely legal in most circumstances, is lying to you.

Here are 3 Ways Police Lie During Interrogations:

1. Emotional Manipulation

You might be under a great deal of stress when you are undergoing interrogation. Police can use this against you if they sense that you may be ready to crack. They may try to make friends with you and/or make it sound as though the charges against you are not as serious as they actually are. They may say things like, “I just want to help you” or “I care about your future.” The goal of these tactics, while they sound nice and may make you feel better, could be used to get you to admit guilt.

2. Making False Promises

If an officer says, “If you just tell us what happened, we will go easy on you,” beware. First of all, they may have no intention of following through on that promise. Secondly, police do not ultimately have the authority to sentence you in the court system. Even if a cop says to the District Attorney, “This fellow was very cooperative with us, so please be lenient with his punishment,” a D.A. has all the authority to disregard that advice. It is also quite unlikely that a police officer will do much to help you in the long run, even if they want to. They are doing a job and once that job is done, they must move on to other cases.

3. Fear Tactics

In an effort to get you to confess, sometimes an officer will tell you that he has significant evidence against you. If the officer shows you a fabricated fingerprint they say they collected, for example, this would be producing false evidence and is not legal. However, an officer is allowed to tell you, “We have your fingerprints at the scene of the crime,” even if they do not have that evidence. This is perfectly legal and can be a powerful interrogation tactic.

Police Deception Produces False Confessions

While police deception is legal and widespread, the practice has come under scrutiny in recent years. According to the Innocence Project, false confessions are a leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States. Teenagers and young people are especially vulnerable to being coerced into giving false confessions after being lied to by investigators. If you are familiar with the Central Park 5 case, you will remember that police gave false information to one of the rape suspects in order to attain a confession. A prison inmate later confessed to the crime and all five men were exonerated.

Will Police Deception Remain Legal?

Illinois and Oregon are the first states to ban police deception when interrogating minors, as reported by the Innocence Project. It is likely that we will start seeing more states join this effort.

For more information about how and when to speak with the police, listen to our podcast episodes 57 and 58 here. If you find yourself being interrogated for a crime, you are well within your rights to stop the interrogation until an attorney is present with you. Reach out to us. We can help.

Reference: The Innocence Project, https://innocenceproject.org/police-deception-lying-interrogations-youth-teenagers/


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