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Yes, the police can lie to you

Posted by Larry Avallone | Feb 21, 2020 | 0 Comments

Rule #1 is don't talk to the police. 

I read this article about the tragic and unintended consequences of a police officer's lie that occurred last year in Seattle. That lie contributed to a man committing suicide. 

A common tactic that police use involves lying to a person in an effort to gain information from someone. In the Seattle case, during a leaving the scene of a crash investigation, the officer lied to a roommate of the accused and led that person to believe that the other driver was near death. The truth was the other driver was not injured. The hope of the officer was that by increasing the perceived seriousness of the injury he might flush the other driver out and make him turn himself in. This lie instead contributed to the man deciding to take his own life.  

Some of the common police lies that I encounter in my cases involve the police giving the person being interviewed the impression that the evidence against him or her is much worse than it really is. Here are a few examples with what I think about the statement: 

Officer: I already know all the answers to these questions I just want to see if you are going to be honest with me.
Me: Really, you already know everything? I doubt that since if you know everything you wouldn't need to ask my anything. Seems like you don't need me then; may I leave now? 
Officer: We have you on video (there/at the scene/leaving the scene etc)
Me: Oh yeah? Let me see that video. Ok that might be snarky, see rule#1 and let your attorney request the video. 
Officer: Your buddy already told us everything. He confessed, so we know you were involved.
Me: This probably isn't true but if it is, I better not dig the hole deeper. I request to speak to my attorney.    

When I was a law enforcement officer I was always surprised when people who were in trouble would talk to me. I knew it wasn't in their interest to answer my questions, but often they told me everything. This would happen even after they were read the Miranda warnings which basically remind people to not talk to the police. I've decided that it is human nature to want to talk when you are in trouble. It goes against our basic nature to be quiet when confronted with evidence of misdeeds. You must fight the urge to talk. There is no talking your way out of a criminal investigation with an officer. You can always make a statement later if your attorney decides that it is in your interest to make a statement. 

The police can and do lie to people. Keep in mind that when you are the target of a police investigation the best course of action is to not engage with the police without legal representation. You may think that the officer you are dealing with is being completely upfront with you, but how can you be sure? 

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About the Author

Larry Avallone

Larry Avallone is a Volusia County Florida based Board Certified Criminal Trial Attorney. He has been a Deputy Sheriff and a State Prosecutor and he exclusively practices criminal defense law.

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