Can the police lie to you to get you to confess?

In past blogs, I have made it very clear that you should never speak to the police when you are being accused of a crime, especially if you are innocent.  One of the reasons is, you cannot trust what the police are saying and what evidence you are being presented with during the interrogation.  Sometimes the police will lie to you, and tell you that they have evidence they do not have.  But can the police really lie to you and get away with it?  The short answer is yes they can in most cases.

There are many ways a police officer may use deception to coerce a confession from a suspect.  Sometimes the officer will display false sympathy for the suspect, or lie and say he has incriminating evidence that he does not have, or falsely claim that a co-defendant has already implicated the suspect in the crime.

Once a defendant has been placed in custody, any confession that a defendant makes must be preceded by a voluntary, knowing, intelligent waiver of the defendant’s privilege against self-incrimination and the right to counsel.  In other words, if you are arrested by the police, the police must get you to give up your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney before they get you to confess.

After you have waived your rights, the confession must still be a voluntary confession.  Whether a confession is voluntary or not is based on the “totality of the circumstances”.  The Courts have held that a police officer lying to induce a confession, in and of itself, does not result in an “involuntary confession”.  However, they have said that it is one of the many factors when looking at the “totality of the circumstances”, whether the confession was voluntary.  In other words, if there are many other things the police officer did to force a confession, including lying to the defendant, then the Court may decide that the confession was involuntary, and not allow the confession to be presented to the jury, but lying alone will not cause the court to suppress the confession.

Courts generally disfavor a police officer making false promises to the suspect to induce a confession, especially where the police promise to dismiss or reduce charges in exchange for a confession.  Police officers know this, and usually make more vague promises to the suspect, like promising to bring the suspect’s cooperation to the attention of the prosecutor, and how it will be better for them to confess.  These vague promises do not receive the same scrutiny as the express promise to dismiss a case in exchange for a confession.  Consequently, police commonly make these vague promises to extract a confession.

As I have said so many times before, it is best to exercise your right to remain silent to begin with, so as not to get caught in these traps.




I’m being investigated for criminal charges, should I speak to the police?

police interrogation

*Update:  I’ve done a video blog on this topic.  Watch it here. *

For those of my clients who are prudent enough to hire a criminal defense attorney after they have been accused of a crime, but before they are formally charged with a crime, one of the first questions they have for me is, “should I speak to the detective?” Continue reading