April 30th is National Honesty Day. If you happen to be questioned by police that day, a great way to keep with the spirit of National Honesty Day is to exercise your right to remain silent. It’s a crime to lie to police during questioning, but you can’t lie if you aren’t saying anything at all. In order to invoke this right, you must tell the officer that you are asserting your right to remain silent with sufficient clarity. If you say something like “I don’t think I want to say anything right now” the officer can interpret that as you needing to take some time before being questioned further. You should state clearly “I am asserting my right to remain silent” to remove any uncertainty as to what you mean.
You may not be allowed to lie to police officers, but officers are allowed to use deception or even outright lie to you during questioning. The courts have found that it is not improper for an officer to falsely claim to a suspect that he has video evidence of him committing the crime in order to prompt a confession. Courts have also found that it’s not improper for an officer to lie to a man that his wife had already confessed to their crime, when she hadn’t, to bait the man to cooperate.
Although police officers are allowed to lie during an interrogation, this is not without limits. Trickery or deceit can only be used so long as it is not designed to give the person questioned the hope of benefit or fear of injury if they confess. To put it simply, in most circumstances, officers cannot encourage you to talk and say that you will get a lighter sentence if you cooperate or threaten you to talk.
Officers also cannot misrepresent the facts such that you would believe you cannot be charged with a more serious offense. In one case, a detective intentionally lied to the defendant when he told him that the victim was alive and recovering. The court found that the detective unlawfully coerced the defendant to confess to causing the injury that led to the victim’s death – he would not have confessed if he knew he’d be charged with murder.
The best way to avoid both lying to police and being tricked by them is to remain silent. If you are asked to be interviewed by police or if you are facing criminal charges, please contact a member of our team at Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense firm as soon as possible.