Police interrogation question

Inspired by true events :

Let’s say a suspect is being interrogated in the murder of a 15 year old. His semen is found in the woman. When questioned whether he had consensual sex with her, he refuses to answer that because a ‘yes’ would be admitting statutory rape.

Now, I know in court ‘taking the Fifth’ can’t be used against a defendant…but let’s say during the course of the investigation the interrogator repeatedly says “Why? Why? Because you killed her? Is that why you won’t answer? I think your refusal to answer indicates your guilt.” Can the interrogator ‘poison’ anything that comes after that?

Or is he not bound to question a suspects motives?

Need answer fast?

I think you’re confusing a few different legal principles here… but suffice it to say:

  1. Say nothing and ask for a lawyer

  2. Who cares if you say its consensual, you’ve just admitted to being in the wrong place at the wrong time

  3. If you are being questioned by police in a custodial setting, you are screwed. They think you did it. They are going to give you every option to talk your way out of it because that’s what they want… you to talk. Period. They can lie to you. And they will. To get you to talk. In your hypo, they will say, “buddy you are facing a murder rap, who cares about statutory rape. You better tell us right now that this was consensual before it gets out of our hands and we can’t do anything to help you. Once the DA is on the line, he makes the call, and we can’t help you. Be cooperative and we can talk to him about the statutory rape… maybe make it a misdemeanor battery. But you better talk now, and fast. Susie’s calling the DA now.”

And so you admit the statutory rape. And they charge you with murder because they now have your admission that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Good luck!!!

Bottom line: Ask for an attorney. Keep your mouth shut.

If the person undergoing custodial interrogation has clearly and unequivocally invoked his 5th Amendment rights, all questioning is supposed to cease. If it doesn’t, any statements made would be inadmissible.

  1. Of course.

  2. WOW. Your scenario when we get to the ‘you better tell us right now this was consensual’ part seems way out of bounds right after someone has asserted their Constitutional right to refuse to answer that question. Yes, police can lie. But I’m pretty sure there are limits. I would think police lying about being able to make a deal is out of bounds.

FTR in the actual case , the boy said he did have consensual sex and was convicted of statutory rape. It wasn’t until years later when the DA found some jailhouse snitches that they went ahead and got him for the murder charge.

Fifteen year old woman?

Even if he says ‘I’m going to take the Fifth on that’? Insinuating he refuses to answer that particular question.

She was older than her chronological age.

I am reading the OP in a different way. I thought the scenario is that he agreed to the interview but is not answering that particular question. That would be an entirely different situation.

But if he invoked his 5th amendment rights then anything after that would be inadmissible unless there was later a very explicit waiver of his rights.


At the beginning of the interview you have your rights read to you. You have to waive your rights and agree to be interviewed. Part of the Miranda warnings is that you can invoke your rights at anytime during questioning. During the interview if you invoke your rights then anything after that would be inadmissible.

If you waive your rights, participate in the interview and then hesitate to answer a question… I would not interpret that as invoking your right to remain silent.

Yes there are very strict limits. There are limits set by SCOTUS and some states have stricter limits. There are also strategy considerations to lying.

We can not coerce or make promises. I almost had an interview thrown out because I promised I would let the guy see his kids *even though I had every intention of letting him see his kids. *

Also about the worst thing you can do in an interview is get caught in a lie. If it doesn’t work and you get caught in a lie then you’ve pretty much ruined any chance of getting any information. It should be a last resort.

Here’s a silly question, though I’ll bet it’s come up before, what if a suspect during an interview says ," I’m asserting my fourth amendment right" and the interviewer continues because search and seizure has nothing to do with the interview.

I used to play soccer with a guy who later murdered his wife and was executed. In his interview he said something along the lines of “I probably should get a lawyer…” And then he immediately continued to talk and ask questions so the court ruled that everything after that was admissible because he didn’t assertively say he wanted to discontinue the conversation.

IANAL, but AFAIK the police can ask you anything, suggest anything about your motives, and do a great deal more to get you to talk - providing you do not waive your right to remain silent. In the scenario of the OP, they have you dead to rights on the statutory rape, and it will gain you nothing to admit to it.

If it is not a hijack -

When police say this, is there really anything they can or will do to “help” you? IOW what do you lose if you refuse to be cooperative?

If it were me in the OP, I would refuse to answer any questions, lawyer up, and let the lawyer work out the deal. Would I get a better deal if I cooperated instead? Or would the benefit of having a criminal lawyer, who is presumably experienced in working out deals, outweigh any influence the police might have or use with the DA?


I’m pretty sure the “why are you pleading the 5th question” is not negotiable legal tender.

This. Always, this.

Any other questions, talk to my lawyer.

If arrested, yes. If you did it, usually. But if they’re interviewing everyone at your place of work, you don’t want to stand out by refusing to be interviewed.

Somebody wondering out loud is not asserting their rights. If someone said that and I said something like, “why would you want to do that?” The whole thing would get thrown out. Something very similar happened to me. All I said was, “that’s up to you.”

As for the other scenerio, I think ignoring it and continuing the interview will most likely result in the entire interview and maybe the case getting thrown out. Just like during the initial Miranda warnings, if someone seems to be confused as to their rights I take the time to explain them. Sometimes at great length.

Here’s a question I asked once before in an earlier Miranda thread, and the answers I got were either vague or maybe over my head:

If I understand (or think I understand) my right to remain silent, why do I need a lawyer?

First of all, let’s clarify if I correctly understand what Miranda was about: I think I’ve always, even before Miranda, had the right to silence, to a lawyer, and whatever else Miranda says. Miranda didn’t create any of those rights. All Miranda did was to imply (not even require, but simply imply) that police must proactively make sure that the people they interrogate are aware of those rights, lest their statements might be thrown out. So police Mirandize their subjects, not to protect the subjects, but to protect the cases they are trying to build.

Is that a correct understanding?

Now, to my original question: If I know my right to remain silent, and assert that right at the beginning of an interrogation, why do I need a lawyer to help me assert that right?

And, a tangential question: In asserting my right to silence, is it essential that I use some legally-correct language? In particular, must I specifically say that I am asserting my right under the 5th Amendment? What if I simply say: “With due respect [or not] I decline to answer any questions, as is my right” (without mentioning the 5th Amendment)? Is that all I need to say?

As a guess Senegoid, cops can be very intimidating, scary and manipulative. Having an advocate in your corner could help you resist the intimidation and manipulation tactics.

Because at some point it will likely be in your best interest to say something. Or at least it may be. Without a lawyer you will not be in the position to do so to your best benefit.