Can police lie to a defense attorney?

I know the cops can lie to a suspect in an attempt to elicit incriminating statements.

Can they do the same to the suspect’s lawyer?

What if the suspect says, “I am representing myself. I am acting as my own attorney.”? Does this change what the police are allowed to say?


Remember that there are distinct stages through which a criminal prosecution moves. A person being interrogated in the back of a squad car who announces that he is acting as his own attorney gains no special privileges. The police are just as free to lie to him as they would be otherwise.

If, at arraignment or preliminary hearing, the judge approves the accused’s request to act pro se - and it’s by no means guaranteed - the prosecution must comply truthfully with its discovery obligations; they can’t claim to have an eyewitness they don’t have, for example.

Off the top of my head, I don’t know of any case directly on point for, or against, the proposition that the police may lie to a defense attorney during an initial interrogation. I don’t see a constitutional problem with it.

  • Rick

I don’t see how an attorney could offer competent advice to a client if the cops are lying about the evidence to the attorney, no matter what the stage of investigation. Of course, they cops could say nothing at all until required to.

By the same token, I don’t see how an accused can make a fully-informed decision if the cops are lying to him. But the accused doesn’t have a particular right to be told only the truth at that stage of the criminal process.

The police are required to make sure the accused knows his constitutional rights. Beyond that, they can lie. The fact that a defense attorney is in the picture doesn’t change that basic equation, as far as I can tell.

Of course, the prudent practice for the attorney is to advise his client to say nothing at all. Whether the police lie or not is of no moment in that circumstance, because the accused will simply remain silent.

If there’s a deal to be struck, it will be with the Commonwealth Attorney anyway, not the police. Seldom is there benefit in speaking to the police.

  • Rick

The police are free to lie to anyone they wish outside of court. But I would think that credibility would be diminished on alleged liar in court.

The police are free to lie to anyone they wish outside of court. But I would think that credibility would be diminished on the alleged liar in court.

Are you sure, yme, that you could get the police lie into evidence and the police liar on the stand? Of what fact might the lie be probative?