police interrogating a suspectIn most cases, the answer is no. The police are not bound by any law that requires them to be completely honest and transparent when they are interrogating suspects. In fact, lying is a common police tactic and one you should be very careful about reacting to.

At The Blankenship Law Firm, we protect the rights of people who have been mistreated or abused by law enforcement officers in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. If you believe that your rights were violated during an arrest or interrogation, please contact us for a complimentary case review. We will help you understand your rights.

What the Police Can and Cannot Lie About

Law enforcement officers have a lot of freedom when it comes to interrogating a suspect, and they often use it to try to trick them into a confession. There are no legal restrictions preventing police officers from lying to you about things like finding your fingerprints at a crime scene, having a witness who identified you as a suspect, getting a confession out of another suspect, or having strong evidence against you.

However, they are prevented from using over-the-top scare tactics, falsely promising you leniency, or lying to you about your rights. Police actions that could be considered misconduct include the following.

  • Taking a lie too far. In 1969, The Supreme Court ruled that police officers can lie during an interrogation, but not to the extent that they "shock the conscience of the court or the community." For example, threatening suspects with a significant consequence that can't happen—such as losing custody of their children if they don't confess—is not allowed.
  • Fabrication of evidence. Police can lie about having evidence they don't have, but they cannot plant or tamper with evidence to create false justifications for an arrest or to incriminate an innocent person.
  • Coercion or forced confessions. Officers cannot use intimidation, threats, physical abuse, or psychological manipulation to obtain confessions or statements from suspects. Sometimes, lying to a suspect crosses the line into coercion.
  • Promising leniency. Police officers do not determine sentencing, so if they tell a suspect that they will get a lighter sentence if they confess before calling a lawyer, that could be considered coercion.  
  • Violation of Miranda rights. Failing to inform suspects of their right to remain silent and their right to legal representation during custodial interrogations is a violation of their rights. However, police only have to read you your rights if they are taking you into custody. If they are questioning you at the scene of a crime, they do not have Mirandize you.
  • Unlawful searches and seizures. Conducting searches without a warrant or without meeting the requirements for warrantless searches is a form of deception that violates the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

What You Should Do If You Suspect That Your Rights Have Been Violated During an Arrest

The most important right for every individual to be aware of is the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present before you say anything. The police will do anything they can to get you to voluntarily give information before calling a lawyer—including lying to you. Don't take the bait! We advise you to take the following steps:

  1. Stay calm. It's crucial to remain calm and composed during the encounter to avoid escalating the situation further.
  2. Exercise your right to remain silent. Again, you are not legally required to answer questions. Waiting for an attorney is not an admission of guilt.
  3. Document details. As soon as possible, write down or mentally note important details of the incident, including the date, time, location, officer(s) involved, badge numbers, and any witnesses present.
  4. Seek legal representation. Contact an attorney experienced in civil rights or criminal defense. They can provide guidance and protect your rights throughout the process.
  5. Identify witnesses. If there were witnesses to the arrest or the alleged misconduct, reach out to them and request that they provide a statement or testify on your behalf, if necessary.
  6. Cooperate with your lawyer. Work closely with your attorney and follow their advice on how to proceed. They will guide you through the legal process, help protect your rights, and explore options for seeking justice or compensation.