Law enforcement: Drugging during interrogation is prevented by what law(s)?

Basically what it says in the title.

Not that I think this happens. I’m working on a science fiction story that has the specter of this as part of the premise. So, what legal statutes preclude a police officer drugging a suspect to exact a confession?

Confessions (at least in the US) given under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol are often considered to be inadmissible in court. So, even if drugging were legal, precedent has already been set where confessions made under the influence may not be admissible.

Drugging someone without his consent is generally an assault. You can’t drug him for the purpose of interviewing him for the same reason that you can’t hit him for the purpose of interviewing him.

The applicable law is the 14th Amendment. Under that, a confession must be voluntary in order to be admissible. Voluntariness is determined through a totality of the circumstances test.

Thank you thank you! (To you all!) Exactly the info I was looking for!

Setting aside the legal and ethical problems, there is also the fact that drugging people just doesn’t work. Sodium pentothal, commonly portrayed in Hollywood as a ‘truth serum,’ is in fact an anesthetic. You are just as likely to get more lies or just plain gibberish than any useful information.

Actually, it’s a combination of the fifth and fourteenth amendments. The fifth says (among other things),

Until the fourteenth amendment, the bill of rights was considered only to restrict the powers of the federal government. The fourteenth amendment extended the bill of rights to the states:


Well, I would point out that the OP refers to a science fiction story. Identifyign the “legal statutes” that regulate interviewing of prisoners requires us to make some assumptions about where the story is set. If it’s set in a fictional version of the US, but one in which the present US constitution applies, the fifth and fourteenth amendments look right. If it’s set anywhere else, then all bets are off as regards identifying particular statutes. But it’s generally true that democracies, or countries which aspire to be democracies, have laws prohibiting the police from assaulting people to obtain confessions, and it’s generally true in those countries that forcibly drugging someone is an assault.

What if the police officer just happens to be a compassionate human being and offers the suspect a drink to loosen up a little bit?

“Coerced Confessions” are NOT admissible.

So called “truth serum”;

Person tied to tree and beaten to obtain confession;

Here is a good article on “Coerced Confessions”, and cites Brown v. Mississippi, but not Townsend.

Can a ‘truth serum’ (irrespective of its efficacy) be voluntarily taken? I believe most (all?) states do no allow polygraph results to be entered into evidence. This does not limit the police from administering tests (real or fake) during their investigation.

If so, would you speculate whether a resulting confession would be admissible? (Assume the ingestion/confession occurred after the suspect voluntarily and knowingly abdicated his right to an attorney.)

If not, or if a prosecutor declines to use the information, would it’s ‘fruit’ be admissible?

(E.g. while intoxicated, a suspect says that he killed someone and hid the gun in his garden. The police dig up the gun, it’s a match to the bullet and has the the suspect’s fingerprints on it. Would the gun be admissible?)

Slight correction. The 14th amendment opens the door to selective incorporation where, one by one, and on a case by case basis, the US Supreme Court considers which previous rights were intended to be incorporated by the 14th amendment. Virtually everything is.

Huh as in… I didn’t know that? Or huh as in “you’re wrong!”? Or huh with some other meaning?

This wasn’t my experience. I often tried to arrange things so I could question an assault victim after he had been given some pain medication. I found they were a lot more likely to give up the identity of their assailant if they were feeling mellow.

Huh as in the points already made by Jeff Lichtman and The Second Stone. There’s no mention of interrogations or confessions in the 14th Amendment.

Seriously? Google 14th Amendment Voluntariness and start educating yourself. Hate to tell you this, but the Constitution regulates a lot of things that are not mentioned in the text. I’ll forego the usual example (abortion) and just ask you to point out where in the 5th Amendment I can find the Miranda warnings?

Maybe I don’t understand you. The right to remain silent is in the Fifth here -

That’s also where you get the right to not answer questions, and the source of the warning that whatever you say might be used against you. The right to an attorney comes from the clause in the Sixth that says citizens are entitled to


Seriously yourself.

The Miranda decision specifically mentions the text of the FIFTH Amendment:

The opinion goes on to quote an 1897 case, Bram v. US, for the proposition that the FIFTH AMENDMENT forbids the use of coerced confessions in federal court. (384 US 436, 461)

They then quote Malloy v. Hogan, a 1964 case that unamiguously applies the FIFTH AMENDMENT standard to the states:

The Fourteenth Amendment isn’t even mentioned in the Court’s decision. Justice Clark, in his dissent, says:

So: what the hell are you talking about, Doctor Who?