Can a Police Officer Lie to Me?

In order to obtain a confession or any other evidence that might lead to one, a police officer who has detained or arrested a person in connection with a crime is allowed to lie.  Those lies don’t just consist of little white lies either.  Courts across the United States have consistently held that any lies or deception that are used by police during interrogation don’t necessarily render resulting confession invalid.  (See, e.g., Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731 (1969) [a seminal United States Supreme Court opinion in which the Court affirmed the legality of deceptive police interrogation tactics]; Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492 (1977) [the Supreme Court upholding the admissibility of a confession obtained after police officers lied to a burglary suspect that his fingerprints were found at the crime scene].)  In fact, those courts look more toward whether those lies were used to obtain a false confession.


This trick is used every day across the country.  Police might tell a person in one interrogation room that their friend in another interrogation room just confessed and implicated him or her in the commission of a crime.  Unless somebody is arrested with their alleged co-defendant, they don’t even know if that co-defendant is in the police station.  If that co-defendant is there, a person doesn’t even know what that co-defendant said.  It’s likely that the police will use this trickery to get both defendants to involve each other.  Never give a confession based on what a co-defendant said.

Physical Evidence

A big lie that police might use against somebody who is believed to involved in a crime that was committed in the recent past is to tell that individual that they already have the person’s fingerprints or DNA at the scene of the crime.  At least 99 percent of all police stations don’t have crime labs attached to them.  There are likely hundreds if not thousands of pieces of evidence in line to be examined in a crime laboratory.  It can take weeks to identify fingerprints or DNA.   Physical evidence must be uncontroverted, and even if it is, speak with an attorney before considering confessing.

How Far Can Police Lies and Deception Go?

Here’s an example of police lies and deception can go.  It was determined to be perfectly legal.  A suspect to a crime insisted on a polygraph test, and during a fake polygraph test with a fake polygraph machine, the suspect denied being involved in the crime.  Then, the interrogating officers showed the suspect a fake graph line that purported to show that the suspect was lying.  That prompted him to admit to being at the location of the crime.  It was held that the admission was voluntary and admissible into evidence.


Eyewitnesses might be the worst possible witnesses that the prosecution can use.  In a crime that occurs in a matter of seconds, it’s difficult for a victim or eyewitness to make a positive identification of a suspect.  Police might lie in order to obtain a confession and tell a suspect that an eyewitness has positively identified him or her without any photo identification at all.  Under those circumstances, a confession can be used against the suspect.

We’ll Go Easy on You

If there isn’t a lawyer present on your behalf when you’re being questioned, nobody is there to help you.  You’re not helping yourself either if you give a confession.  Police can’t make deals, but they can lie about making them.  Only prosecutors can make deals.  Police want that confession so they can arrest you and refer the case over to the prosecution.  It’s then up to the prosecution as to whether anybody is going to go easy on you.

Police officers are trained to deceive people in order to obtain admissions and confessions from them.  The best thing that a person can do if he or she is detained or taken into custody by police is to refuse to say anything at all and insist on speaking with a criminal defense lawyer.