Some issues come up over and over:
Some issues come up over and over:
Most of us grow up being told that the policeman is our friend. We are not taught that he would lie to us. Some think that the police are not allowed to lie. This is so ingrained that even drug dealers believe it. This is why police reports and surveillance audios so often reveal a drug dealer asking a customer:
Dealer: “Are you a cop?”
Busted. Yes, it’s true, the police are usually allowed to lie to citizens when they are fighting crime.
Lying about giving a statement:
If a suspect is arrested by the police, the police must BEGIN with a little straight honest talk. They read the person his Miranda rights:
After that, they can lie to and deceive a suspect in order to get a confession. And they can go pretty far before the court will draw the line and declare such confession to be coerced or involuntary. The police might tell a suspect:
I’ve seen police who don’t want to lie outright, will only suggest that he has such evidence. Knowing he has no fingerprints or surveillance video, he will ask the suspect to explain how his prints or picture might turn up. Then there is the old story of the interrogator who hooks the suspect up to a copy machine. Then every time the detective pushes the button the machine prints out a “report” that says: “He’s lying.”
But they can’t lie about everything:
One thing police cannot do is mislead a suspect regarding the consequences of confessing. If an officer tells a suspect that his statement cannot be used against him or will not result in charges, one can easily see that contradicts the Miranda warning that the officer gave earlier.
Lying about getting consent to search:
Sometimes the police want to get into a suspect’s home. They want to look around, but do not have enough evidence to get a search warrant. Lying to the homeowner is one of his tools. An undercover police officer can come to the suspected drug dealer’s house, posing as a buyer. If he is allowed inside on that basis, he may seize evidence or find enough other evidence to get a search warrant. The undercover cop might get in by knocking and asking to use a phone. These deceptions have been allowed by courts to get consent to enter.
One thing the police cannot do is go beyond the actual consent to enter. The undercover cop–invited inside to buy drugs or use the phone–cannot then start nosing around in closets and drawers. They may not get into a building by claiming authority that they do not have. That would immediately destroy the voluntariness of the consent.
There is also no voluntary consent to enter when the homeowner allows a police officer to enter because the officer has falsely claimed to have a legal right to enter. The same would apply where a government agent claims a false emergency, perhaps by posing as a gas company employee.
Accused persons often tell their attorney: “The cop who arrested me didn’t read me my rights. Can you get the charges thrown out?”
The short answer is maybe. The rights you are thinking of are called your Miranda rights. The purpose is to warn you that you don’t have to talk to the police if you don’t want to. The idea is that a person under arrest may not feel free to remain silent when he is questioned by the police. So the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that persons in state custody must be warned of their rights before being interrogated.
How does this work in practice?
Example 1: A police officer pulls you over for speeding and walks up to your car window. He smells alcohol coming from the window. Without reading you your rights, he asks “Do you have any illegal drugs in the car?” You answer “Just a little dope in the glove box.” You are arrested and charged with marijuana possession.
Example 2: A police officer pulls you over for speeding and walks up to your car window. He sees a bag of marijuana in you lap. Without reading you your rights, he arrests you and you are charged with marijuana possession.
Example 3: A police officer pulls you over for speeding and walks up to your car window. He smells alcohol coming from the window. He gets you out of the car, but you fall down because you are too drunk to stand up. He arrests you for DWI and puts you in handcuffs. Without reading you your rights, he asks “Do you have any illegal drugs in the car?” You mumble “Just a little dope in the trunk.” The officer searches the trunk, finds the dope and you are also charged with marijuana possession.
In the real world the police screw this up from time to time. They forget to read people their rights or wrongly judge that they don’t have to. Whether they do or they don’t is one thing. Whether you answer their questions is another story. I’ll save that for another post.