Re: What can the police lie about while conducting an interrogation?

Re: What can the police lie about while conducting an interrogation?, I have to offer my own study of the matter.

And first off, I have to say, I think the staff writer who wrote this article must’ve brought up in a convent:). The police can do all kinds of unethical stuff to elicit a confession! And courts have said it is perfectly alright.

About 20 years ago, I got this book, The Court TV Cradle-to-Grave Legal Survival Guide (ISBN-10: 0316036994, ISBN-13: 978-0316036993, Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (1995)). As you can see, the book is 20+ years old. So I am sure things have gotten even worst since then.

One, trick (according to the book), is to say the police will offer you a plea deal. Ironically, SDStaff Gfactor even goes into this a little bit, in the article. The only problem is, the police don’t have the power to make a plea deal. Only the prosecutor does! And mind you, obtaining things under false pretenses, is usually a crime, when you or I do it. Yet the courts have said the police can, according to the book.

As I said, things have only gotten much more disgusting since. And even if you say, serves the criminal right, consider that innocent people have been coerced into confessing, with the right psychological pressures, by the cops. In fact, I once asked our probate lawyer if you should ask for a lawyer, even if you’re innocent. And his answer surprised me. You should always ask for a lawyer if you are being interrogated! It’s your right, and you don’t have to apologize for that.

I posted a similar topic on this. But I think it was on a different board, and on a slightly different subject that this. So I should be alright posting this one. The article by SDStaff Gfactor was just republished anyways.

And, hey, to my lawyer board members, just how nasty can the cops get when they interrogate you? As I said, I am sure it is even worse than this in 20+ years. Please enlighten us at once:).

And thank you in advance to all who respond, or even just read this (important) thread.


<This doesn’t lead from the OP, just wanted to also comment about lies in interrogations>

Aside from coercion, ISTM that another danger of using lies is false memories.
If you’re telling me point blank my car was seen on BlahBlah Street and I was seen talking to some woman, maybe I start to doubt myself. Especially if the day in question was a while ago, and I had previously been on that street (just not on the day in question).
Pretty soon the interrogation is just writing a story, as my mind starts trying to associate memories (that are actually of separate events), and embellish, to try to make it all fit.

If interrogations are aimed at trying to find what happened, this would be a problem. But if they’re just about trying to get a confession, then I guess the police wouldn’t care about this.

According to me they can frame any lie to make you confess your crime. They are good at twisting things. They twist our words and frame us between our words and force us to assume what they are saying is right.

My brother once fell asleep at the wheel, which resulted in a two car crash. His girlfriend went to the hospital. He went to jail.

They told him for almost 24 hours that she died, trying to coerce something out of him in relation to falling asleep, meds, drugs, or DUI.


I will (perhaps) address the legal (constitutional) aspects (via court cases) later on. But I did want to comment on this one point:

It’s not only your right (6th Amendment), it’s the *single most important right to assert *to avoid trouble down the road. As was established originally in Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 US 478 (1964), and emphasized pointedly by CJ Burger in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966), police MUST cease interrogation of a custodial suspect once the right to counsel is invoked. If you assert your right to remain silent, they have lots of wiggle room to try and get you to overcome that (for example, just conversing in your hearing about something designed to provoke you into giving up your silence). But if you assert the right to an attorney being present, they cannot engage in any attempt to interrogate you absent that attorney.

I recall this point quite well because I had one of my more memorable law school episodes over this point. I was not paying attention one day in Criminal Procedure, and of course, the professor managed to pick me out. I knew vaguely that we were talking about Miranda-right cases, but I had not done the reading for that day’s class. The professor asked me, “Mr. Young, if you are arrested by the police, what is the first thing you should say?” I probably looked approximately like deer do in your hi-beams, and had that sinking feeling of being trapped. But fortunately, my friend next to me whispered under his breath, “Ask for an attorney”, and without thinking, I simply repeated this.

As I recall, the Professor had one of those looks that people get when they are supremely disappointed that their clever strategy has failed to accomplish their goal (though in fairness, he had a fairly grumpy-looking face all the time). But he allowed as how I was right. By the time he followed up with a question as to why I was saying that, I had managed to come to grips with the situation and was able to point to the relevant language in the case to support my answer. My friend got bought several beers that night. :smiley:

Could you clarify? I understand that they cannot engage in any attempt to interrogate if you ask for an attorney but could they use the same dodge as in the right to remain silent, ie just converse with each other about stuff like how dumb a former suspect was to ask for an attorney and how that backfired on him, hoping that such talk might make the suspect change his mind about an attorney?

Why is that answer remotely surprising? If you’re innocent, you want to prove that. Which means that you want the help of someone who’s skilled in proving that.

I’ll drag out my old books and look up the case tomorrow (assuming someone like Bricker doesn’t drop in first and provide it :cool:), but basically, the case I was caught napping on involved something fairly similar, as I recall (perhaps an attempt to get the suspect to talk after asserting right to counsel but while in the police car, or in jail).

Because there is a VERY wide-spread perception that only a guilty person needs a lawyer.

“Why would you need a lawyer unless you’ve got something to hide, (and you want his help in doing it)?”

“If I’m innocent, all I need to do is tell the police that, and they’ll let me go.”

Supreme Court rulings are not the only law of the land. Individual states can not take ignore Supreme Court rulings but they can add to them. In my state there are many more limits to what you can say in an interview. There are probably precedents that only effect that state in all 50.

People should listen to the Miranda warning that they are given; “Anything you say can and will be used against you”.

My father was a cop for over 30 years. He always said “Never talk to a cop. Be polite and be quiet.”

One thing that a lot of people don’t understand about police is they can lie about things not involving the facts of the case but about the interrogation process. E.g., “You don’t need a lawyer.”

See post 10. I have no need to familiarize myself with all 50 states but I certainly can’t do that.

Not sure I believe the OP about police being allowed to make a false offer of a plea bargain. This seems to be exactly the sort of thing the SD report calls a coercive “extrinsic misrepresentation” that the courts will not allow. Besides, it’s likely to backfire. The defense attorney can put the interrogating officer on the stand and ask point blank if he/she lied to the defendant to extract a confession, and point out to the jury that an innocent person might well “confess” if offered a deal of, say, a year in prison vs. a possible life sentence if convicted. It also makes for embarrassing newspaper headlines.

Someone pointed out to me, also “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” Never for.

“Mr. Cop, do I need a lawyer?”
“Why would you need a lawyer? You’re not guilty are you?”


“Mr. Cop, I think I need a lawyer.”
“You don’t need a lawyer. You’re not guilty are you?”

Not hugely different, but could be perceived by some as distinct enough to pass muster.

We are not allowed to make any sort of promise. Even promises that we have every intention of keeping. No promises or coercion.

In my state both would get the interview thrown out. No doubt at all. I saw an interview thrown out when a suspect looked up at the ceiling and asked himself “Should I get a lawyer?” No one said anything. No one suggested he didn’t need a lawyer. The judge ruled that he should have been immediately re-Mirandized. No we are not allowed to even hint at talking someone out of invoking their rights. This guy was a murderer by the way.

We are allowed to lie about certain facts but certainly not about your rights. It’s also usually a bad idea to lie and I would only do it as a last resort.

Like I said above this is for my state. Each state has their own set of caselaw. Each state may have more strict requirements than federal caselaw or it may just follow the minimum requirement set out by the Supreme Court.

Same in Commonwealth countries that have followed the English confessions rule: if a person in a position of authority induces a confession by offering some benefit, the confession is excluded.

Well, I just have to reiterate, the book definitely said police sometimes elicit a confession under false plea deals. Read the book, if you don’t believe me. (The book covers a lot of deep topics, but it written like on a 5th grade level. You can probably read the whole thing in 5 minutes. I’m serious.) And again, this was over 20 years ago, at that.

I don’t know how they could get away with it, either. But you know, some areas of the country are much more conservative than others. And, I can’t provide a cite, but it is a well-known fact, that some lower court judges sometimes go to the beat of their own drum, a little. It is theoretically impossible. But who’s going to stop them? Judges have life-long appointment, with little oversight.

Just something I thought I would throw out there. (Now please carry on with the rest of the discussion:).)

Corruption is always a possibility in the legal system and it’s something that you’ll never be 100% free of, but I don’t know how helpful it is when discussing the law to mention that some people in the system don’t follow the law. You might as well not even talk about the law at that point. It’s like discussing the rules of football then pointing out that sometimes people cheat; sure it happens but it’s irrelevant.

There’s always some risk in getting it all off your chest during a police interrogation: