Most people don’t expect a police interrogation of a suspect to be a friendly chat. Interrogations can be tough. However, there are limits on what officers can do to elicit information or a confession that will be admissible in court.
Confessions need to be voluntary. That means officers can’t use torture, threats or drugs on a suspect or engage in any treatment that could be considered inhumane. You might be surprised, however, at just what they can legally do.
What can and can’t police lie about?
Police can lie to suspects. They can tell a suspect that someone else arrested with them has already confessed to the crime and incriminated them as the mastermind. They can tell a suspect that they found evidence linking them to the crime when they didn’t.
Law enforcement officers, however, cannot misrepresent a person’s legal rights – such as any of their Miranda rights.
Courts often look at the totality of an interrogation
In cases where a person asserted that their confession was coerced or involuntary, courts (including the U.S. Supreme Court) have typically looked at the entirety of the interrogation and those involved. How long did it last? What was the suspect’s mental state? How serious were the lies that police told them?
The law is not black and white when it comes to police interrogation. That’s why it’s always advisable not to answer any questions until you have an attorney present, which is your right. Once you request an attorney, the questioning has to stop until you have someone there to represent you.
If you believe that you were coerced into a confession, let your attorney know. That confession and any other information you provided may be deemed inadmissible in court. Even if you’ve already provided information damaging to yourself, your attorney can work to protect your rights.