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  #1  
Old 02-11-2005, 10:55 PM
astro astro is offline
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How serious a crime is lying to the police & other law enforcement authorities?

I primarily ask this question because most of the procedural crime dramas on TV show people/witnesses/involved parties repeatedly lying their asses off to the police, states attorney, FBI etc., with little to no repercussions as long as the "real" bad guy is caught.

What happens in real life? Do the police and others ignore lies as long a they get the bad guys?
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  #2  
Old 02-11-2005, 11:05 PM
danceswithcats danceswithcats is offline
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IANAL or LEO, however there are statutes regarding 'Unsworn Falsification' that can get you nicked if the parties involved wish to press the issue.
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  #3  
Old 02-11-2005, 11:51 PM
jnglmassiv jnglmassiv is offline
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Obstruction of Justice?
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  #4  
Old 02-11-2005, 11:59 PM
sleeping sleeping is offline
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No cite handy, but I understand that, if you're being interrogated, lying to the FBI is a crime but lying to the local PD isn't.
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  #5  
Old 02-12-2005, 05:29 AM
Crafter_Man Crafter_Man is offline
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I'm not sure, but I do know that (in certain circumstances) the police are allowed to lie to you.
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  #6  
Old 02-12-2005, 05:37 AM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astro
What happens in real life? Do the police and others ignore lies as long a they get the bad guys?
It's possible they might, if you're not obstructing the investigation, because the state may lack the resources to prosecute everyone who commits an offense.
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  #7  
Old 02-12-2005, 08:25 AM
Balthisar Balthisar is offline
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So if the Los Angeles or Detroit police beat a false confession out of you, and once you're judged not guilty, can they turn around and charge you with lying to the police? I guess that's a way to always get your man...
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  #8  
Old 02-12-2005, 09:13 AM
CBCD CBCD is offline
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Martha Stewart is now in a federal prison for obstructing justice and lying to investigators. Those were felony charges against her.
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  #9  
Old 02-12-2005, 10:44 AM
Quartz Quartz is offline
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Attempting to pervert the course of justice is a serious offence in the UK.
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  #10  
Old 02-12-2005, 10:50 AM
Leaper Leaper is offline
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Homer: The evening began at the gentleman's club, where we discussed Wittgenstein over a game of backgammon.
Scully:Mr. Simpson, it's a felony to lie to the FBI.
Homer: We were in Barney's car eating packets of mustard. Are you happy now?
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  #11  
Old 02-12-2005, 11:06 AM
Ilsa_Lund Ilsa_Lund is offline
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Surely this excludes self incrimination?
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  #12  
Old 02-12-2005, 11:29 AM
CynicalGabe CynicalGabe is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crafter_Man
I'm not sure, but I do know that
Sorry, this made me laugh pretty good.
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  #13  
Old 02-12-2005, 12:10 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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It's ultimately up to the DA to press charges. You can lie to any law enforcement authority, and if they choose to press charges, you're in trouble. If they don't, then you can go free. There's always discretion involved.

OTOH, there are instances where a suspect is given leeway to lie, if the truthful answer would incriminate him. As a hypothetical case, if the police grab you and ask you if you robbed a liquor store, and you say "no," they usually can't try you on perjury if you are found not guilty of the liquor store robbery. The legal thinking is that a truthful answer would be self-incrimination, so you can't be penalized for sticking to your rights.
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  #14  
Old 02-12-2005, 01:34 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crafter_Man
I'm not sure, but I do know that (in certain circumstances) the police are allowed to lie to you.
Well, it would be a tad bit difficult to do undercover work if the police were not allowed to lie to you, now wouldn't it?
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  #15  
Old 02-12-2005, 02:08 PM
klintypooh klintypooh is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell
Well, it would be a tad bit difficult to do undercover work if the police were not allowed to lie to you, now wouldn't it?
Are you an undercover officer?

N...Yes.
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  #16  
Old 02-12-2005, 05:19 PM
Washoe Washoe is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crafter_Man
I'm not sure, but I do know that (in certain circumstances) the police are allowed to lie to you.
About 3 and a half years ago, I was the primary whistleblower in a $50 million corporate bank fraud case which involved demonstrable police corruption on the part of a retired California Highway Patrol officer who was also at one time the chief of the Inglewood, CA Police Department. My own local PD demonstrated some extremely suspicious behavior regarding the whole affair, and they lied both to me and to several other people concerning their involvement in the case. They told different stories to different people, seemingly unconcerned with the possibility that we would contact each other and compare notes (which we did). Not only did their behavior appear to suggest that they were involved in some sort of criminal activity, they became visibly defense and hostile when I confronted them with this evidence and demanded an explanation. So in this case at least, it seems that they felt perfectly justified in lying not only to an individual, but to an extended group of people.
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  #17  
Old 02-12-2005, 08:46 PM
Badge Badge is offline
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Lying to the police is certainly a crime, and an easy arrest. I agree, the cops on television could be hooking people left and right (but that wouldn't make for an interesting investigation).

In Washington State (where I work), there are several ways this can occur:
  • Providing False Information while stopped for a traffic violation - Misdemeanor
  • Making a False or Misleading Statement to a Public Servant - Gross Misdemeanor
  • Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer - Gross Misdemeanor
  • False Swearing (lying in writing, if the form is properly constructed) - Gross Misdemeanor
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  #18  
Old 02-12-2005, 08:53 PM
astro astro is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Badge
Lying to the police is certainly a crime, and an easy arrest. I agree, the cops on television could be hooking people left and right (but that wouldn't make for an interesting investigation).

In Washington State (where I work), there are several ways this can occur:
  • Providing False Information while stopped for a traffic violation - Misdemeanor
  • Making a False or Misleading Statement to a Public Servant - Gross Misdemeanor
  • Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer - Gross Misdemeanor
  • False Swearing (lying in writing, if the form is properly constructed) - Gross Misdemeanor
So how serious penalty wise is a "gross misdemeanor"?
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  #19  
Old 02-12-2005, 08:59 PM
Badge Badge is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ilsa_Lund
Surely this excludes self incrimination?
You have the right not to say anything that would incriminate yourself. However, you still do not have the right to lie. You can refuse to answer my questions, but if you do answer, you can't lie.

We all know the mantra: "You have the right to remain silent. If you give up this right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law".
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  #20  
Old 02-13-2005, 12:20 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Badge
You have the right not to say anything that would incriminate yourself. However, you still do not have the right to lie. You can refuse to answer my questions, but if you do answer, you can't lie.

We all know the mantra: "You have the right to remain silent. If you give up this right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law".
An interesting caveat to this is that pre-Miranda silence can be used against you in a court of law.
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  #21  
Old 02-13-2005, 10:49 AM
Mr. Slant Mr.  Slant is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell
An interesting caveat to this is that pre-Miranda silence can be used against you in a court of law.
What if you Mirandize yourself?
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  #22  
Old 02-13-2005, 11:46 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Woodall
What if you Mirandize yourself?
Not sure what you mean by this.

Anyhow, the way it works is that if you're not under police custody you don't need to be read your Miranda rights, of course. The cops are free to question you at will. However, you are also free to leave at will if you are not under arrest. The cops will often say something to this effect, that you're not under arrest, but they'd like to question you.

Here's a more precise explanation of your rights when being questioned by police.

Quote:
If you are under investigation for a criminal offense, you can prevent "pre-Miranda" silence from becoming an issue by stating, "My attorney told me never to talk to the police without talking to him first. Do I have to answer your questions?" Once informed that you have the right to remain silent, no negative inference can be drawn from your exercise of that right. There is nothing wrong with making your attorney responsible for your choice to remain silent -- it looks a lot more suspicious if you simply refuse to answer questions than if you present the explanation that your attorney gave you standing advice not to answer questions.
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