It’s Legal For the Police to Lie to You

It seems counterintuitive because many people are raised to believe that law enforcement is there to help, but they absolutely can and do lie. When facing criminal charges, it’s understandable to feel intimidated into believing every word they say, but you still have rights. However, even though their tactics can be questionable, it’s important not to return in kind, because it can and will be used against you. Understanding how and why police choose to use deception may provide some insight on how to behave when being questioned. 

Why Do the Police Use Deception?

Unfortunately, many police officers will sometimes resort to deception of some kind during interrogations, or even during routine traffic stops. The Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals, highlights the troubling practice of police deception, particularly when it involves vulnerable populations such as youth and teenagers. The use of deceptive tactics, like false promises, pretending to have evidence, or outright making up a story are ways to manipulate individuals into unintentionally incriminating themselves. 

This is not to say that the police will lie just for the sake of it, but if they believe that someone committed a crime, they’ll do whatever they can to get a confession. Sometimes this can lead to false confessions and wrongful convictions, but it doesn’t change the fact that the police are generally allowed to lie as long as it’s not considered especially unethical by the court’s standards. This is largely subjective, so the most important thing to do is to use your right to remain silent.

What to Do If Police Are Lying

Imagine this hypothetical situation: You’re approached by the police during a traffic stop, and they ask you something like, “Do you know why I stopped you?” You don’t have to respond, necessarily, but it’s a good idea to be polite and tell them you don’t know. At this point, if they believe you were speeding, and have no evidence, they might say something like, “You were going 70 mph in a 35 mph zone.” They may be trying to get you to say something like, “No, I was actually only going 55 mph.” At this point, they have your “confession,” and will cite you for speeding.

Another way they might use deception is during an interrogation. During questioning, an officer may be friendly toward you, and say something like, “If you cooperate, we can tell the judge to go easy on you.” They don’t have the authority to request that from a judge. They could also bring up evidence they don’t have to get “your side of the story,” by saying something like, “We have video evidence of you at the scene of the crime. This is your chance to tell us what really happened.” Statements like this are designed to make you feel like you’re cornered and have to say something to protect yourself, but what they’re looking for is a way to get you to say something incriminating even if there was no wrongdoing.

All these lies and deception can make a person rightfully upset. It may be tempting to lie just to get them to leave you alone, but just because the police have the legal leeway to use deception, doesn’t mean everyone else does. Never lie to the police, as it can have serious consequences and lead to criminal charges like obstruction of justice or making false statements. Always use your right to remain silent. No matter what the police say to you to get you to talk, just stay quiet or invoke your right to an attorney as soon as possible. 

The majority of lost cases are from situations where people say or do something incriminating in the presence of law enforcement. Even if someone does say something that leads to criminal charges, that’s not the end of their story. The right defense attorney will work with you to guide you through the process and protect your rights. If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges or is under investigation, call our office as soon as possible at (713) 227-4100 for legal guidance.

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The Law Offices of Charles A. Banker, III

Our firm’s founder, Charles A. Banker III, has been a solo criminal defense practitioner with offices in Houston and McAllen, TX for over 30 years. He understands what it means to work independently in today’s hyperconnected world, but he also knows that sometimes you need to lean on others.

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