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Deceit During Interrogations: When Can Police Lie to You?


When defendants are facing an interrogation by law enforcement, the expectation is that any confession given will be voluntary. However, in order to elicit a confession, police officers can use deceitful tactics.

The forms of deception include lying and trickery, but law enforcement and government agencies must not coerce confessions. The Fifth Amendment protects individuals from self-incrimination and prohibits law enforcement from psychologically overbearing a person’s will by coercive methods. Additionally, confessions elicited without due process are not admissible in court.

Lies and interrogation

Obtaining a voluntary confession should be a straightforward process, but the use of permitted police deception adds complexity. During interrogations, police cannot use physical force, so they resort to various psychological tactics.

During an interrogation, police can lie and make false claims. For example, law enforcement can lie to a defendant and say their compatriot confessed when the person had not confessed. Police can also claim they have DNA evidence, such as fingerprints, linking the defendant to the crime even if no such evidence exists.

Limits on misrepresentation

While lying and trickery is permitted to an extent, the deceptive tactics must be within reason and vary on a case-to-case basis. Police are not permitted to misrepresent a suspect’s legal rights. For instance, an officer could not tell the defendant their self-incriminating statements would not be used against them and then use those statements in court.

Although the tactics are generally considered coercive, law officers walk a fine line between morally acceptable lies to elicit a confession and outright coercion. Confession need to be voluntary and not the result of psychological mistreatment or mental conquering.

If you are facing charges and an interrogation by law enforcement, remember your basic rights. You have the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent. Do not fall into the trappings of psychological coercion.