Can Police Lie To Me During Investigation?

Can Police Lie To Me During Investigation?

April 27, 2019 Off By Glespynorson

The simple answer to this question is Yes. Law enforcement officials have the right to lie to you in order to arrive at the truth when they suspect you have committed a crime. While it may seem unfair that the police may be tricking you into a confession, under the law they are permitted to tell you, for instance, that they have DNA evidence of your being at the scene of the crime, or of actually assaulting a victim. They are also allowed to tell you that your partner has implicated you in the crime he or she confessed to. In these and several other ways, police are legally permitted to convince you that they have evidence of your guilt as a means of getting you to confess to a crime.

Your Miranda Rights Against Self-Incrimination

Of course, you have serious rights as well, giving you the opportunity to protect yourself from unfair prosecution and unjust incarceration. Under the Fifth Amendment, you cannot be forced to incriminate yourself, so you have “the right to remain silent.” Under the Sixth Amendment you are entitled to have legal counsel advise you and speak on your behalf.

These amendments to the Constitution are intended to protect you from being forced to give involuntary or coerced confessions during questioning by the police. Although police are permitted to question you before reading you your Miranda rights, this is a foolish practice for them to engage in since any confessions they elicit will be inadmissible at trial.

Distinguishing Between Acceptable Police Lies and Unacceptable Ones

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It is very important to understand the types of lies the police can tell you in case you ever find yourself accused or arrested for a crime. Unfortunately, very few people are aware of these rules until they get into legal trouble for the first time. There are differences, sometimes subtle ones, between types of lies that may be used and those that are prohibited. Lies that involve entrapment, that is luring the individual into committing a crime he/she would not have committed without police involvement, are not acceptable, but the standards to define entrapment may be either objective or subjective according to which state you are in. Police also cannot fabricate evidence to bolster their lie. For example, you find yourself in a police interrogation and are told your DNA was found on “the murder weapon” but it actually wasn’t. Police MAY tell you your DNA was found on the murder weapon. Police MAY NOT prepare a fake DNA report that says the DNA from the murder weapon matches your DNA.

Lies Police Can Tell You

Generally speaking, police are permitted to tell lies that are considered unlikely to lead to a false confession. Such lies include:

  • Not telling you an undercover agent or detective is “wired up” or that a tape recorder or video camera is recording your words and/or actions
  • Stating that they have hard evidence, such as fingerprints or DNA when they do not
  • Tricking you into providing your DNA by offering you a beverage
  • Giving fake “tests” that “prove” your guilt (e.g. show that you handled a gun recently)
  • Telling you that you’ve failed a polygraph or chemical test when you have not
  • Telling you that they have one or more eyewitnesses who can identify you
  • Telling you that the victim identified a picture of you
  • Telling you that an accomplice has confessed and implicated you in the crime
  • Telling you that your accomplice will face life in prison if you don’t confess
  • Telling you that this is your last chance to tell your story

False Confessions Are Not as Rare as You Think

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In spite of all the legal restrictions police are supposed to obey, police often take liberties, especially if they believe the defendant is socially or economically underprivileged, uneducated, or vulnerable in some other respect. This is why, if you are arrested you should always refuse to give any statement without a criminal defense attorney being present.

Lies Police Are Forbidden to Tell You

You should be aware that, although the law gives police a wide range of possibilities when it comes to lying in order to enforce the law, there are also some lines police are forbidden to cross. This doesn’t mean that these lines are never crossed, but that if police are caught in acts of such misconduct, they can be held accountable. In extreme cases officers may lose their jobs or even being imprisoned.

The following lies can result in penalties for law enforcement officials, not only because they are considered immoral, but because they are thought to be likely to lead to false confessions:

  • Threatening a family member of the defendant with harm or removal from the home
  • Telling the defendant he/she will be brutalized if he/she does not confess
  • Telling the defendant he/she will not be able to eat, drink, use the bathroom unless the police hear a confession
  • Telling an injured defendant that he/she will not be given pain medication unless a confession is forthcoming
  • Showing the defendant “evidence” that the police themselves have manufactured and claiming that it was found at the scene (though police can use props, like an blank CD)
  • Lying about the questioner’s identity (i.e. if the police officer pretends to be a member of the clergy or a social worker)
  • Promising the defendant he/she will get a lighter sentence by confessing now

In all such cases, the lies being told interfere with the defendant’s free will and are, therefore, considered coercive. Of course, if these are not lies, and the police intend to carry out their threats, the situation is even more dire. In such cases, police brutality that may lead to dismissal of the case altogether, not to mention serious consequences for the officers in question.

Other Factors That May Be Considered Relative to Police Lies

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If you, or your criminal defense attorney, accuse the police of telling unacceptable lies, the following factors will no doubt be considered:

  • How long the questioning went on
  • Where the questioning took place
  • Whether you had a criminal record
  • Your age, physical and mental health
  • Your mental competency
  • Whether you were allowed contact with an attorney or family member

Shocking the Conscience of the Court or Community

Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision of the Frazier v. Cupp in 1969, lies, trickery and deceit by law enforcement have been considered permissible unless they “shock the conscience of the court or community.” As you can see, this statement leaves much room for ambiguity.

Protect Yourself from Police Lies — Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Immediately

It should be helpful to you to know that over the past several decades the courts have typically upheld prosecutions in which police pretended to have evidence they did not actually possess or lied by saying that an accomplice had “ratted out” the defendant.

On the other hand, courts have routinely ruled against police officers who lied about their own identities while questioning a suspect (not when doing undercover work) and police personnel who have told defendants lies about what would happen to them or their families if they did not confess. If you’re ever in the unfortunate situation of being arrested, remember not to be pulled into tactical police manipulations by remaining silent and calling a strong criminal defense attorney to assist you.

Attorney Bio

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After his graduation from American University’s Washington College of Law, Miami attorney Antonio F. Valiente, Esq. began his legal career at the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office. There, he gained valuable insight and extensive experience over the course of six+ years. Between his time at the Public Defender’s Office & since founding Valiente Law, he’s tried close to 50 felony jury trials as lead counsel, dozens of misdemeanor jury trials, taken over one thousand depositions, & dozens of juvenile trials/adjudicatory hearings. Mr. Valiente’s experience encompasses everything from minor traffic-related misdemeanors to serious first-degree murder charges. Since 2015, Mr. Valiente has expanded his practice to handle all types of family law matters – from divorce and child custody cases to paternity and same-sex adoptions. Having the opportunity to work with & learn from some of the best and most experienced family law attorneys in the State, Mr. Valiente now provides his family law clients with the same excellent representation he is known for providing his client’s accused of state & federal criminal offenses.