You’re being interrogated by a police officer, and the officer instructs you to tell the truth. You assume that this instruction works both ways – that the officer is also being honest with you and isn’t going to lie directly during the interrogation.
But is this actually true? It’s not. It’s just a common misconception. The reality is that the police often do not have to be honest with you and are fully permitted to lie. Why would they do so?
To influence a confession
One reason that police officers will lie to suspects is to try to get them to confess to a crime or to offer up information that will help them to make an arrest of someone else. They may think that it will help them to manipulate the situation or simply invent facts in order to achieve their intended aim. For example, imagine that you and another executive have been arrested on charges of financial fraud. It’s alleged that you’ve stolen millions of dollars from investors or from a business. You claim that you’re innocent and that it’s just a misunderstanding or an example of human error, but the police are still talking to you and seem intent on painting you into a corner.
During this conversation, a police officer may tell you that your alleged partner in this financial crime has already confessed. That other executive has told them everything. The police have all of the details needed to make an arrest, and they already know all of the facts of the case.
At this point, what the officer is trying to do is to influence you to confess. They may even suggest that things will “go better for you” if you admit what you did, rather than continuing to deny it. It’s easy to read about a hypothetical situation like this and think that it wouldn’t work, but studies have found that there are cases where people have made false confessions – admitting to things that they know they never did – under this type of pressure.
What options do you have?
Understanding that the police can lie to you is very important. Similarly, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to talk to the police on your own. Seeking legal guidance can help you to safeguard your rights during an investigation.