Legal Guide

Police Interrogations: Know Your Rights

Most people never find themselves being interrogated by the police. If you were in that situation, however, would you know what to do? As a citizen of the United States, you have various rights pertaining to your interaction with police. Do you know what those rights are?

You’ve probably seen this scenario play out in movies and television shows, but the reality of an interrogation can be far more intimidating and stressful. The playing field between you and the detectives is never even, especially with their prior experience in coercing confessions.

Detectives also have plenty of information on the crime and usually some evidence, and they often lie about both in an attempt to put fear into their suspects. For example, during an interview process police could say they have your fingerprints on a weapon even when those prints don’t even exist.

Playing off your fear of trouble with the law and uncertainty about your legal rights, officers can easily manipulate you into confessing to a crime you didn’t do. It happens every day to innocent people right here in America, people just like you. So, consider this the first step to knowing your rights should you ever find yourself being interrogated.

What is an Interrogation?

It’s important to know the difference between an interrogation and a police interview. Although the purpose of each is to obtain information, an interview is a more informal procedure or line of questioning used to gather facts and details about a case. The information is simply to help them paint a better picture of what has happened through witnesses or others with useful tidbits related to a case.

A police interrogation, on the other hand, is designed to get a confession from a suspect. Most likely, investigators have already decided that you’re guilty and are willing to use several tactics to force or coerce a confession that could end up convicting you of a crime whether you’re guilty or not. Unfortunately, building a case tends to be more important than finding out if someone is innocent.

Interrogation Techniques

Cops are famous for their interrogation techniques, and they often have more than what you’ve seen in movies or on TV. Being aware of these tactics can help you get through an interrogation without breaking, which is the goal detectives have in mind as they seek a confession.

One of the most commonly used interrogation techniques is called baiting. Law enforcement officers will present you with some sort of information that will get you to change your story or say some sort of statement that can be used against you.

For example, during an interrogation law enforcement can legally lie about evidence or details of a crime to get a confession. They might say they have DNA evidence or your fingerprints and then ask you to explain how that happened if you’re innocent, baiting you into saying something you shouldn’t as you try to make sense of the situation.

It’s of the utmost importance that you actually don’t say anything at all. Don’t try to defend yourself, although you will be tempted. Instead, ask for an attorney and say absolutely nothing else. Remember, anything you say can and will be used against you.

Another technique involves the investigator telling you they just need to know what happened and then they will let you go. This is another trick to get you to make a statement which can be used in court.

In addition to these techniques, investigators will also use tactics such as isolating suspects in a windowless interrogation room, good cop/bad cop tactics where different cops say two conflicting things in order to confuse a suspect, and other psychological techniques proven to get forced confessions.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

The answer to the question, “Do I need a lawyer?”, will always be a resounding yes. In fact, the only thing you should say is, “I want my lawyer.” After that, do not say a single word to anyone without a lawyer present and don’t give any written statements.

You have a constitutional right to an attorney, and should exercise that right regardless of whether you are innocent or guilty of a crime. Just ask Boulder Criminal Defense Attorney David Moorhead about how speaking to an attorney and not the cops can save or sink you.

With a skilled legal representative, you have a fighting chance and a defense from shady police tactics. Once you ask for an attorney, the police must end their interrogation. Remember, any further use of tactics is ground for a lawsuit brought by you and your lawyer.

Also under Miranda Rights, anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. If you give up any of your Miranda Rights, law enforcement can take your words into the courtroom as evidence. Simply speaking is waiving your right to remain silent. So, stay silent.

It’s Not About Innocence or Guilt

You might think that you only need an attorney if you’re actually guilty of the crime, but that’s not the case. If the police are interrogating you, they probably already believe you’re guilty. Their job is to coerce a confession from you and let a jury decide if you’re innocent or not.

Even if you don’t give them an outright confession, they can take any words you do speak and use them to make you look guilty in court. Once you’re in that courtroom, your fate is on the chopping block whether you committed the crime or not.

Who would confess to a crime if they’re not guilty, though? According to a study conducted by the Innocence Project, more than 25 percent of innocent people confess to crimes they didn’t commit due to pressure and interrogation tricks used by law enforcement. While you might think it won’t happen to you, imagine the hours upon hours of sneaky tricks and rigorous questioning.

Information and Preparation is Key

You might think this situation could never happen to you, but so do many sitting on the wrong side of the one-way mirror. It’s best to be prepared, know your rights, and understand what to do if you ever find yourself under interrogation or accused of a crime.

Should you find yourself in that unlucky position, you know your rights now. Stay silent, and let the only words that pass between your lips be, “I want a lawyer.” Never let detectives take your words and twist them into an admission of guilt or a confession, even if you think explaining yourself might help prove your innocence.

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