Can police lie in order to make you confess?

Rights, Crime

We’ve all seen plenty of movies or television episodes in which police stretch the truth to get a confession. While the circumstances may be dramatized for entertainment purposes, in real life, the practice actually does happen. And it’s completely legal.

Under the law, police are indeed allowed to lie to gather potentially incriminating details from a suspect or informant. It’s just one of many rampant misconceptions about criminal cases:

“If I’m innocent, it’s ok to talk to the police.”

Not necessarily. Innocent people go to jail all the time for crimes they did not commit. Never speak to an officer without your attorney present. If you say anything at all, it should be one of these four “magic phrases.”

“If I hire an attorney, it will make me look guilty.”

Untrue. If you’re under investigation for a crime, and especially if you’ve been arrested, the police already view you as a potentially guilty party. Hiring a criminal defense attorney is a smart move, not an admission of wrongdoing.

“It’s been years since that happened, so my record is expunged.”

Incorrect. When a crime was allegedly committed is irrelevant. An expungement must be granted by a judge, which means your attorney needs to show that you are eligible for expungement.

“A public defender is all I need to argue my case.”

No disrespect to hardworking public defenders, but there are limitations to what these professionals can accomplish in the face of heavy caseloads and limited time and information. With a private attorney, you choose your own advocate, one who will work for the best legal outcome by getting to know you and the case intimately.

“I have to talk to the police if they ask me questions about a crime.”

Nope. It is an American’s constitutional right to remain silent. People incriminate themselves every day without meaning to, ending up in irreversible situations. Again, it’s a bad idea to speak to an officer without an attorney by your side.

“I don’t need to hire an attorney until I’m charged with a crime.”

Don’t chance it. Once you think you are under investigation for a crime, hire a criminal defense attorney. Charges may never be filed if you have an attorney working on your behalf.