Long gone are the days when the authorities were allowed to physically abuse suspects to extract a confession – but that doesn’t mean that the police can’t yank out other tools in their arsenal to get the evidence they need.
Although the practice has become increasingly controversial, the courts have consistently ruled that law enforcement officers are allowed to use deception when they are trying to extract confessions or gather evidence. In other words, the police are allowed to lie to you.
You can’t rely on what you hear
The police use all kinds of deception in their investigation. Here are some of the methods employed:
- Fictitious evidence: The authorities may claim to have conclusive evidence of someone’s guilt, through things like fingerprints, DNA evidence or surveillance footage.
- Bogus witnesses or confessions: They may also invent eyewitnesses who supposedly witnessed the crime, or claim that someone’s accomplice has already confessed.
- Bluffing: The police also sometimes exaggerate the strength of their case to make a suspect believe that maintaining their innocence (or silence) is pointless.
- False rapports: Police investigators often lie to build a rapport with their suspects. An officer may falsely tell you that they’ve experienced the same feelings you have or have the same beliefs so that they can create a sense of camaraderie that might prompt a suspect to relax.
All of this can put a lot of pressure on a suspect to start talking – and that’s never to the suspect’s benefit.
However, you can’t lie to the police
On the flip side, it’s generally illegal to lie to the police when they’re conducting an investigation. Even if you’re ultimately cleared of all other charges, you could potentially be convicted of obstruction of justice for lying to an officer, detective or federal agent. That can mean prison time.
So, what do you do when you’re being asked questions you don’t want to answer? Instead of speaking with the police and running the risk that you’ll accidentally say something that puts you in jeopardy, it’s far better to invoke your rights and say nothing at all until you’ve secured appropriate legal guidance.