No one expects a police interrogation to be friendly. It can be harsh.
However, police have other tactics at their disposal to get information from people reluctant to provide it. That includes lying.
Police can lie about some things
Many people don’t realize that law enforcement officers are allowed to lie. They may tell a suspect that the people they were arrested with turned on them. They may say there are witnesses or DNA evidence putting them at the scene of a crime when they have none. They may hold information as well regarding whether a victim or other suspect is alive or dead.
While officers can lie about the facts of the case, they cannot lie about a person’s legal rights. They must give them their Miranda rights in full. They also can’t pretend to make deals. They can’t tell a suspect that if they confess to a misdemeanor offense, they won’t be charged with a felony. Only prosecutors can make plea deals.
Voluntary vs. coerced confessions
If you admit to committing a criminal offense, it’s very difficult to successfully walk that back later. That’s why it’s never wise to submit to an interrogation without having an attorney present. It’s also important to remember that if you initially choose to talk without an attorney, you can stop at any time and ask for one.
Confessions must be made voluntarily. Of course, officers can’t threaten or torture people into confessing or do something else that could be deemed inhumane.
Whether a confession was truly voluntary isn’t always a simple matter to determine if a person later asserts that it shouldn’t be used as evidence because it is coerced. U.S. courts at all levels have traditionally looked at the totality of a person’s interrogation(s) to determine if a confession was coerced. For example:
- How long did the interrogation last?
- Was the suspect allowed to do things like use the restroom and have a drink of water?
- Did police stop questioning if they asked for an attorney?
- What was the suspect’s mental state?
- What kind of lies did the police tell them?
- How harsh was the questioning?
If you believe that your or a loved one’s interrogation included illegal tactics, it’s crucial to get legal guidance. It may be possible to get some or all of the information provided excluded from the evidence. It’s important to know and assert your rights.