Passionate Representation. Smart Strategies.

Effective Results.

Truth, lies and police investigations: What to know

A police investigation is supposed to be all about getting to the truth of the matter, but the truth isn’t exactly sacrosanct – at least not when it comes down to interrogations.

Before you agree to have a “friendly chat” with a police investigator or step into an interrogation room without legal guidance, it pays to understand a few ground rules that are tilted in the investigator’s favor.

You can refuse to answer, but you cannot lie

Let’s be 100% clear about this: You cannot lie to the police about any “material fact” relevant to their investigation or the crime that was allegedly committed. If you do, you can face a $1,000 fine and up to five years in prison – even if you are wholly innocent of any other wrongdoing.

You can, however, assert your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by invoking your right to remain silent. This is a far better path to take than even saying, “I don’t know,” when you’re trying to avoid answering questions posed by the authorities (just in case they can prove that you do know what they’re asking).

The police can, however, lie to you about a lot of things

The authorities don’t have to follow the same rules as the people they interrogate, and they seldom do. Lying is a time-honored technique in many police investigations, and the lies are often designed to increase the pressure on a suspect to confess.

Generally speaking, the police cannot lie about your rights (such as telling you that you don’t actually have a right to remain silent), and they cannot outright fabricate evidence. But they can:

  • Lie about the evidence they have, such as claiming that you were caught on video near the scene of a crime or that your DNA was found on a victim’s body
  • Claim that they’ve already gotten a confession from another suspect that they believe is your co-conspirator and that you’ve been implicated in that confession
  • Tell you that you failed a polygraph test when you didn’t, or tell you that a failed polygraph is irrefutable evidence that you’re guilty (when it’s actually “junk” science)

Knowing what’s true and what’s not true isn’t easy when you’re sitting in the hot seat in a police interrogation room. That’s why it’s always best to have experienced legal counsel by your side.