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Can you lie to the police?


Police officers employ a variety of tactics to encourage criminal suspects to talk. Sometimes, after hours of sitting in interrogation rooms, individuals even confess to crimes they did not commit. A confession, of course, makes for compelling evidence in a criminal trial.

While police officers typically may lie to you without breaking the law, lying to them may complicate your situation considerably.

Obstruction of justice

In theory, it is good for the public when individuals tell the truth to police officers. Those who intentionally provide incorrect or untruthful information may face obstruction of justice charges. In Virginia, obstruction of justice is usually a Class 1 misdemeanor. Upon conviction, you may face up to a year in jail, a stiff fine or both. These penalties are likely to be in addition to the ones that accompany the underlying offense.

Your right to remain silent

If you are in police custody, you have a right to remain silent. This is an invaluable right, as it keeps you from incriminating yourself. Rather than lying to the police or otherwise trying to mislead officers, you are probably better off invoking your fundamental right to remain silent. Asking for an attorney may also help you avoid obstruction of justice charges.

On the other hand, if you are not in police custody, you likely have no legal obligation to cooperate with officers. Ultimately, by either staying quiet or removing yourself from the situation, you can likely keep yourself from saying something incriminating or untrue.

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