Here's how to recognize deceptive police strategies.
It is almost always legal for police to lie during interrogations. In this environment, false confessions have become a leading cause of wrongful convictions in the U.S.
If you are being questioned by law enforcement, it is essential to understand the deceptive tactics and strategies police use to squeeze out confessions. People who can spot these methods are better prepared to protect their freedom.
At Manley & Manley, our experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyers advise people being questioned by police to invoke their right to stay silent and have an attorney present during questioning.
Here's what everyone needs to know about how law enforcement uses deception to get confessions.
Common police lies
Courts have repeatedly supported police officers' use of deception - with limits. In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Frazier v. Cupp that officers can lie during an investigation as long as it does not "shock the conscience of the court or the community."
Here are some common lies police use to trick people into confessions:
- Your friends said you did it. This lie puts a lot of pressure on people being interrogated to set the record straight by providing details of what happened. Don't fall for it. Frankly, if a friend did rat you out, it would be an even bigger reason to stay silent until a lawyer arrives.
- All the evidence points to you. Police may say they have the evidence they need to press charges - even if they don't have any evidence - to try to elicit a confession. This is known as the "bluffing" or "false evidence ploy" tactic. For example, an officer might falsely claim to have eyewitness testimony, forensic evidence, or DNA evidence that links the suspect to the crime.
- If you confess now, things will be easier for you. Unfortunately, this may be the boldest lie. Law enforcement has no power to affect the justice system's process.
- If you don't confess, there will be consequences. Police officers might make the "consequence" of staying silent when questioned sound bad, but it's not. The only thing that happens when people refuse to confess is the police have less evidence to use against them.
Other interrogation strategies
In addition to outright lies, here are some other deceptive strategies police use on civilians:
- Intimidation. Intimidation can be a powerful tool for the police to use during interrogations, especially if the suspect is young, inexperienced, or vulnerable in some way. This can take many forms, such as yelling, using aggressive body language, making threats, or using scare tactics.
- Good cop/bad cop. In this strategy, two police officers interrogate a suspect together. One is the "bad cop." They will typically be more aggressive and confrontational, using tactics such as yelling, intimidation, or threats to elicit a confession. Meanwhile, the "good cop" will typically be more sympathetic and understanding, offering the suspect reassurance, comfort, and sometimes even a way out of trouble if they confess. The goal of this strategy is to create a psychological dynamic where the suspect sees the "good cop" as an ally who is on their side and the "bad cop" as a threat who is trying to force them into confessing.
New bill to stop cops lying to kids
Minors are the most vulnerable to police deception. To help protect them, state Rep. Dylan Wegela (D-Garden City) recently filed a bill to prevent police from using deceptive tactics on children during interrogations. In 2021, Illinois and Oregon passed similar laws.
"Young people are especially vulnerable to providing false confessions due to certain tactics used by law enforcement officers," Wegela said in a statement. "Unfortunately, some officers convince young people of something that is not true to get them to say things that didn't happen. We want to make sure that doesn't happen."
The bill was filed in April, so it is unclear how well it will be received. It is now with the House Committee on Criminal Justice for further review.
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If you have been charged or are suspected of a crime in Michigan, take a tough stance to protect your freedom. Contact Manley & Manley for a free case consultation to get answers to your questions and learn more about your legal options. Our experienced Michigan criminal defense attorneys are relentless. We are aggressive in protecting the rights and freedoms of our clients.
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