The short answer to this question is a resounding YES. The police can lie to you, and they will lie to you in order to get a confession or evidence out of you.
There are only a few laws which restrict police officers from telling blatant lies to people they arrest, meaning that if you make a confession or other statement to the police about a crime, they will find a way to use it against you. This post looks at some of the myths you may have heard about what police can and can’t say.
Myth 1: Undercover police must admit to being a police officer if they are asked.
Reality: Undercover police have no obligation to confess their involvement with law enforcement. The purpose of undercover police work is to catch individuals in the commission of a crime by concealing the identity of the officer.
It wouldn’t make much sense if an officer is obligated to blow her cover if she is asked about being a cop, but the myth persists nonetheless.
Myth 2: The police can’t lie about having physical evidence against me.
Reality: The police can lie freely about evidence that doesn’t exist. For example, police can say “we have your fingerprints all over the crime scene, you might as well confess.”
The truth is, DNA and other evidence take a long time to process. Fingerprint samples, blood work, hair samples, and other things of that nature are not going to be processed immediately after the commission of the crime, and they are processed in laboratories, not at the police station.
By saying this, police hope they can convince you that you are already going to be found guilty so you should give them your confession and get it over with. Don’t fall for the trap.
Even more alarming than a lack of evidence is the fabrication of evidence that can be used by the police to get a confession. Consider People v. Mays (2009) 173 Cal App. 4th 1145, wherein a suspect requested a polygraph machine to prove his innocence.
The officers connected the suspect to a fake machine, interrogated him, then showed him a fake chart and told him that he failed the polygraph test. He then confessed to being at the scene of the crime. The court found that the police did not coerce the confession and that it was admissible.
Myth 3: If I am honest with the police, they will help me get a good deal.
Reality: The police have nothing to do with your sentence. The District Attorney is the only one who can offer you a good deal or give you any sort of light sentence, and it is not going to be offered because you confessed a crime to the police during interrogation.
These are but a few examples of the common ways police can deceive you into a confession. There are plenty of other tactics they will use to convince you that you have essentially been caught.
For example, police may say that your friend has confessed to the entire crime and they know that you participated in the commission of the crime.
They may say that unless you confess, your family member or friend who was with you during the alleged crime will go to jail for life. They may even say that witnesses have identified you as the suspect and that there are photos of you from surveillance cameras at the scene of the crime.
These tactics are permissible to use by police, and anything you say during an interrogation can and will be used against you at trial.
Are There Any Limits?
It is obvious that these practices are unfair, and it seems like there should be some sort of protection for citizens. While there are a few laws that do work in favor of protecting the citizen concerning police questioning, they are not very strong.
For example, it is established that police cannot question an individual unless they have been read their “Miranda” rights, but if the suspect is questioned prior to arrest, any statements made are admissible.
Also, even though police are not allowed to coerce a confession, the court will look to see whether the tactics used by the police were reasonably likely to produce a false confession.
People v. Farnam (2002) 28 Cal.4th 107. The key word is false – if you confess to a crime and tell the truth, it can and will be used against you. Simply because the police use a little trickery to get information from you does not mean your confession is invalid.
Keep Silent and Contact Beahm Law
If you are arrested or brought in for an interrogation, keep silent no matter what. Tell police you will not answer any questions without an attorney present.
They may continue questioning you anyway, but do not give in or object to their statements until you have a lawyer with you. Call Beahm Law Today at 415-493-8677 for a free consultation.