Can Cops Lie to You? Can You Lie to Them?
If you’ve ever been pulled over or stopped by the police, you are probably familiar with that adrenaline-driven sensation that occurs while you’re pulling to the side of the road. It is common for people to feel so intimidated by the police that we often forget we aren’t in trouble until proven guilty. It is always best, especially if you are being detained or arrested, to avoid saying anything to the police until you have a lawyer present.
Why avoid talking to the police? Doesn’t the process go faster if you explain everything to them? Ask yourself these two questions instead. Can the police lie to you? and is it illegal to lie to the police?
The truth is, police can and depending on the charge, may often lie to you. The police will do this to get a confession or evidence to help prosecutors get a conviction, and build a rapport with you to earn trust and make you feel more open. Here are some of the most common lies the police are able to tell:
- Undercover police can lie about being a police officer
- Police can lie about having incriminating evidence against you
- Police can lie about the severity of your sentence
- Police can lie about having an eyewitness to a crime
- Police can lie about their ability to get a search warrant
- Police may lie and tell you a conversation is “off the record”
- Police may lie by telling you someone else has already confessed to the crime
When it comes to lying to the police, the situations where this is acceptable vs. unacceptable vary by state but it is usually a tactic they are legally allowed to use.
Undercover Police Don’t Have to Admit They Are Police
A common misconception that the average citizen thinks is that police officers must reveal their identity as an officer if asked. This is completely false. Undercover officers rely on the ability to lie in situations like this in order to not only keep themselves safe but to also carry out successful stings and busts that would otherwise be impossible. There are no situations where an undercover police officer must reveal their identity.
Police Can Lie About Having Incriminating Evidence to Get a Confession
Another example of a situation where the police can lie to you occurs during the interrogation process. The police may lie for many different reasons, but in the interrogation room, they lie to help get a confession. They can claim that they have evidence against you that they don’t have.
Police may tell you that they found your fingerprints at the site of the crime. In reality, this is usually a process that requires lab work. The lab work is not done at the police station, which means they often don’t have any physical evidence on you in the early stages of your arrest. When police lie, it is usually to get a confession or get you to give up your DNA. If you are offered food or drinks it’s best you refuse them to avoid unknowingly providing them with fingerprints or DNA. If by some chance they do find your fingerprints at the crime scene, they can use that against you in a court of law.
Police May Lie and Say You Will Get a Lighter Sentence If You Confess
The police may often try specific lies in order to enhance cooperation during the interrogation process. No matter what the officer tells you, they aren’t obligated to do any favors for you or be on your side. Before you respond to any of these tactics used by police, make sure you have a lawyer advising you through this process so you don’t accidentally incriminate yourself. The reality is, the police will always try to convict you if you let your guard down.
One of the common errors people make when speaking with the police is volunteering too much information to go after a trade they promised you. The police are unable to help shorten or reduce a potential charge. The only people who have the ability to reduce your sentence or offer you a deal are the District Attorney or Prosecutor assigned to the case.
Police Can Lie About Having an Eye Witness
In the same way that the police may try to tell you that they found your fingerprints at a crime scene, the police may also try to tell you they have an eyewitness. Aside from saying they have an eye witness, they may also try to say that the eye witness provided them with information that only the person who committed the crime would know in order to get a confession. With any situation involving the police, it is always best to wait to say anything until you have a lawyer present or have received advice from a lawyer.
Police May Lie About Their Ability To Get a Search Warrant
Search warrants are another strategy the police may lie about to get you to reveal information faster than you otherwise would. When you are pulled over or the police come to your home, they may tell you that there’s no reason to hide anything because they can get a search warrant in a matter of minutes anyway.
Although this is not really a lie, using this tactic typically means they actually don’t have that strong of a case to get a search warrant. They tell you this in hopes that the fear of a search warrant alone will cause you to consent to be searched. Always remember, the police can get a search warrant in as little as 30 minutes, but you should always retain your right to remain silent and make them take the proper channels to do whatever action they want. All search warrants should be active and include a judge’s signature. Do not let the police search your home or vehicle without verifying their warrant.
Police May Tell You the Conversation is “Off The Record”
One of the most common lies the police use to encourage you to speak without your lawyer present is to convince you that whatever you say next is “off the record”. This is not real. At any time when you are in police custody or in the presence of police officers, they can and will use anything you say against you in court.
Police May Tell You Someone Else Has Already Confessed
Law enforcement officers may at times try to convince you that someone else involved in the alleged crime you are being investigated for has already confessed. In an attempt to get you to reveal more information than you would with a lawyer present, suggesting that they already know some information about what your role in the matter was is another common way to try to get a confession out of you. This is also a situation that is often untrue. As with every instance involving the police, do not respond to any attempts at pulling a confession without an attorney present.
Are There Any Limits to Lies Police Can Tell?
When it comes to limitations on tactics the police may use to try to get you to confess to a crime, there are really no limits on how creative these tricks can get. The police are only obligated to read you your Miranda rights. Beyond that, the police are also not allowed to trick or lie to you in a way that is reasonably likely to produce a false confession. The most important takeaway from these limitations is that if you’ve been read your Miranda rights it’s always best to take advantage of your right to remain silent and request the assistance of a lawyer.
Is It Illegal to Lie to the Police?
No matter what state you are in or what the situation is involving the police, it is always a good idea to have a lawyer present before you speak with law enforcement. No matter how confident you feel about having done nothing wrong, always prioritize your safety and give yourself the best chance to avoid further legal action by having a lawyer present. To break this topic down as clearly as possible, there are three main crimes that you could be charged for if you lie to police:
- Directly lying to the police
- Supplying false documents (e.g., a fake ID)
- Interfering with criminal investigations
Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent and Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
As we’ve mentioned above, there is no better strategy for you to take, once you’ve been arrested, than to exercise your fifth amendment right to remain silent and hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. You do not need to try to solve the situation yourself. Law enforcement will at all times have more leverage than you once you’ve been arrested until you have someone in your corner who understands the law equally if not better than the police.