It can be frightening to be picked up by the police for questioning or being interviewed after being arrested. The police may employ many tactics to try to get you to confess to committing a crime. You need to understand their strategies and how to protect yourself so that you do not make incriminating statements that can make it harder for an experienced criminal defense lawyer to defend you.
How Law Enforcement Officials Could Try to Get You to Confess
Unfortunately, you could be tricked by the police into confessing—even if you are falsely accused of committing a crime. You may have seen some of the tactics they use dramatized in police television shows and movies. Here are some interrogation techniques that law enforcement may employ:
The police are allowed to lie to you when they bring you in for questioning. If you wrongly believe what they say and confess, your confession could be used against you. Here are some common false statements that are often used:
- They could lie about having evidence against you.
- They could tell you that they turned off the tape or video recording and that anything you say is off the record—even if they haven’t.
- They can claim that the prosecutor will prosecute you more harshly if you do not talk to them.
- They could minimize the seriousness of the crime in an effort to get you to confess.
- They can tell you that they will help you or that things will be better for you if you confess.
- They can threaten to arrest your family or friends and send them to jail.
Another tactic the police could utilize is to verbally and emotionally intimidate you. They could yell at you or throw papers at you to scare you. The police could also keep you in the interrogation room for hours or throughout the night to wear you down until you confess.
Sometimes the police will claim to have solid evidence against you that proves you committed the offense. Keep in mind that this is different than planting fake evidence. They could state that your fingerprints were found at the crime scene or that your DNA matches DNA found on the victim. Another common tactic is to tell you that witnesses placed you where the crime occurred.
The police could use leading questions to elicit a certain response. If you are nervous or trying to be cooperative because you are innocent, you may inadvertently answer this type of question in the way the police want and make incriminating statements that they will use against you.
Another common tactic is to trick you into giving them your DNA when they do not have a warrant to force you to provide it. They could offer you a drink, cigarette, or food and obtain your DNA. An officer could then lie and tell you that your DNA was found at the crime scene—even if it wasn’t.
Lie Detector Test
You could be convinced to take a polygraph test to prove your innocence. If you agree—which you do not have to do—they could tell you that you failed even if you passed it. The police may then try to intimidate or coax you into confessing.
If another individual was arrested or brought in for questioning with you, the police officer interrogating you could claim that they confessed. However, this may not be true. Unfortunately, if you fall for this tactic and confess, your confession may be considered admissible against you.
Obstruction of Justice
The police may claim that you are obstructing justice by refusing to confess. However, this is not true. It is your constitutional right to refuse to answer law enforcement officers’ questions.
Good Cop-Bad Cop
Another technique you probably have seen on TV or in a movie is when a pair of officers question you. One of them would act like they are your friend, while the bad police officer would engage in aggressive or intimidating interrogation tactics. When the bad cop leaves the room, the good cop could act like they are on your side and encourage you to tell them your side of the story.
Other Tactics the Police May Employ
Police officers may use other techniques to collect evidence against you or convince you to confess. A few of them include:
- Cellmate testimony. Law enforcement officials are allowed to tape conversations in your cell if one person consents to it. You need to be careful not to discuss the crime you are accused of committing with your cellmates. In addition, the police could convince a cellmate to testify against you in exchange for some benefit to them. This person’s testimony may not be true.
- Your trash. While the police would need a search warrant to search your home, they would not need one to search your trash. It is considered abandoned property. They could find evidence to build a case against you or could claim this when in fact it is not true.
How to Protect Yourself From Being Tricked Into Confessing
Fortunately, you can protect yourself by understanding the techniques the police may employ and by invoking your constitutional rights. You have a right not to incriminate yourself and remain silent under the Fifth Amendment. You should invoke this right and remain silent when the police question you. The only information you have to provide is your name, date of birth, and address.
You also have a constitutional right to have your attorney present during interrogations. When the police take you in for questioning, you should inform them that you want your lawyer to be present and retain an attorney immediately. Once you inform the police of this, they cannot question you without your attorney being in the interrogation room with you.
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