Police Myth: Cops Cannot Lie
When a police officer questions a suspect, the ultimate goal is to get the suspect to confess to committing the crime. An experienced police officer (or detective) typically has a fairly large bag of tricks they can employ when trying to elicit a confession, including deception. Yep, the police are generally allowed to trick you, or lie to you, when trying to get you to confess.
Moreover, the fact that the police lied to you doesn’t render that confession involuntary absent additional facts and circumstances.
Police officers are legally allowed to lie to a suspect while investigating a crime. In fact, they do it all the time. In fact, officers are trained to manipulate or deceive a suspect in order to obtain a confession. For example, a detective may trick a suspect into confessing by saying they have evidence against them, such as fingerprints or DNA, when they have no such evidence.
For as long as we can remember, the word on the street has always been that cops cannot lie. So if you’re doing a drug deal with an undercover cop, and you ask him point blank if he’s a police officer, then he has to tell you the truth. He might try to technically get out of it by saying yes in a sarcastic tone of voice, but he has to be able to testify later on that he did say he was a cop.
It’s not just lying about being a cop, by the way. Cops are allowed to lie about anything. Let’s repeat that: The police are allowed to lie to you…about anything.
The most common example of this is police interrogation. The cops are allowed to use any deception they like, in order to get a confession. The biggest lie (and one that works all the time) is that conversations will be strictly off the record. “Just between you and me.” Nothing you ever say to a police officer is ever off the record. If it can be used against you, it will
The second-biggest lie (also one that works all the time) is that, if you come clean, the officer will make sure you get treated leniently. He’ll make sure the DA gives you a lighter charge. He’ll put in a word with the judge to make sure you get off with a lighter sentence. He’ll only arrest you for the misdemeanor. Absolute nonsense. That police officer is going to make sure you go down for whatever it is you just confessed to — but it works all the time.
Oh, and if you think innocent people don’t do that too, then you’ve got another think coming. Innocent people do confess to crimes they didn’t commit, for a variety of reasons. (That’s a subject for a whole nother myth.) And lying cops is one of the big ones.
And the cops are completely within their rights to lie this way. Unlike prosecutors and judges, who have professional ethics to comply with, the police are allowed to use whatever lawful tools they have in order to solve a crime. It’s not against the law for them to lie. They’re allowed to.
And so they will. They’re trained to do it. They’re supposed to do it. They’re gonna do it.
Examples Of When And How The Police Can Lie To A Suspect
If you are being questioned about a major crime, the odds are very good that the law enforcement officer(s) doing the questioning is a detective who has lots of experience interrogating suspects. As such, you can almost count on at least some deceptive tactics being used during your “chat.” Separating the truths from the lies probably won’t be easy; however, it may help to be familiar with some common examples of when and how the police often use deception when trying to get a suspect to confess.
- DNA trickery – there is no need to ask you nicely to submit to a DNA test if they can get a sufficient sample to test off the glass of water or can of soda they offered you.
- False evidence claims – they may claim your fingerprints were found at the scene or a paper trail was uncovered proving your involvement in the crime.
- Co-defendant confession claims – this is a classic ploy – pitting two potential suspects against each other. They tell each one that the other has already confessed, making it pointless to remain silent. One, if not both, usually fall for it.
- Non-existent eyewitness – they may tell you that they have an eyewitness who puts you at the scene of the crime or who saw you commit the crime.
- Failing tests – telling a suspect they failed a polygraph is a favorite police tactic.
- Implicit threats – this one is tricky. They can say things like “your buddy will go to jail if you don’t tell us the truth.” They cannot threaten family members with harm nor can they threaten to remove them from your home.
- Explicit promises of help – they frequently offer to help you if you confess or provide them with useful information. Keep in mind, however, that only a prosecuting attorney can actually agree to a plea deal. A law enforcement officer doesn’t have the authority to do that.