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Can police officers legally lie to you?


The presumption criminal suspects are innocent until a judge or jury finds them guilty is a bedrock principle of the American legal system. Unfortunately, when investigating possible criminal conduct and interrogating suspects, police officers often already have their minds made up about the guilt of suspects. 

When interrogating suspects, officers often use the Reid interrogation technique. Regrettably, this technique has resulted in countless confessions from individuals who simply did not commit crimes. Giving a suspect misleading or downright false information is a tried-and-true tactic of the Reid method.  

Officers can lie to you without violating the law

During custodial interrogations, officers may have significantly fewer details about the crime or its circumstances than they want you to believe. Generally, officers may lie to you about physical evidence, witness statements, approved warrants or even the potential severity of your sentence upon conviction.  

Because officers intentionally set up interrogations to be inherently stressful events for criminal suspects, you may not be able to distinguish between truth and fiction. After prolonged questioning, you may believe you are guilty of a crime even if you are innocent.  

Not all lies are legally acceptable

While it may be legally acceptable for officers to lie to you about many matters, they cannot mislead you about your constitutional rights. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to remain silent. It also affords you the right to have an attorney present for police questioning. 

If officers lie to you about these matters, any statements or confessions you make may be inadmissible in court. Still, because officers are likely to have an advantage when questioning you, invoking your Fifth Amendment rights may be an effective way to level the playing field.  

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