Can the Police Lie To Me?
The Constitution's Fifth Amendment gives sweeping privileges to defendants, preventing law enforcement from coercing suspects, allowing a person to refuse to incriminate themselves, and from involuntary admission while in court. This set of laws means that officers cannot, by force, make you admit you did something you never did. However, those police officers can still use deception and trickery during an interrogation. There are many tactics that police use during an interrogation that you should be aware of before speaking to them.
Under Georgia law, it is a crime to make a false statement, conceal facts, or present fraudulent documents to the government, including any police officers. The opposite, however, is not illegal. The police can use many tactics that involve deception or outright lies to get a confession. For example, in the trial of the Central Park Five, where five innocent men were convicted of a crime they did not commit, the men were pressured by police because the police said they had evidence that linked them to the crime. The police, famously, did not have evidence linking any of the five to the crime scene. Police can, and often will, use deception and lies to attempt to get those interrogating into confessing to the crime they think the perpetrator committed, whether the person committed the crime or not.
Common Tactics used by the Police
The police will employ many tactics of deception against suspects, and if you are ever suspected of a crime and asked to talk to the police, there are many things they may attempt in their pursuit. According to the American Psychological Association, some of the tactics the police have employed are:
- Falsely claiming that a co-conspirator has confessed
- Claiming to have found a suspect’s fingerprints at the scene of the crime
- Falsely stating they have DNA evidence
- Falsely stating that they have satellite or surveillance footage of the crime
High courts have all upheld these tactics as legal and allowable during an investigation, as they are not considered coercion under the Fifth Amendment. There are several other tactics that police may use based on perceptions that they have, first and foremost amongst these tactics being the polygraph, better known as a ‘lie detector.
‘Lie Detector’ Is a Misnomer
While commonly seen as the judges and unbiased tellers of truth, polygraph machine results have repeatedly proven unreliable as pieces of evidence. At trial, testimony based on polygraph tests is not found to be reliable, according to the United States Department of Justice. Courts have found polygraph tests are prejudicial, can mislead the journey, and are too ambiguous to be of any scientific weight. This evidence does not stop police from using them to scare suspects, however. Like lying, police can use polygraph tests to deceive suspects into thinking that the police have incontrovertible evidence of their guilt when what they have cannot be used in court.
What to Do During a Police Interview
If you need to speak to the police or any law enforcement agency, ensure that you know your rights before you enter the room. When talking to law enforcement, remember that you always have a right to silence. You do not have to answer any questions they ask. They can lie to you, provoke you, ask you to take a polygraph test, and you can refuse to answer any questions they may have. You can request a lawyer under your Fifth Amendment rights at any time. You should always ask to have a lawyer present.
Experienced Defense Attorneys
If you need an experienced Georgia defense attorney, Nick Lotito & Seth Kirschenbaum can help you understand your options and be an advocate for you. Learn more about how we can help or schedule a consultation by calling (404) 471-3177 or visiting our website.