Law Enforcement Agent Promises

Last time I left the discussion of law enforcement agent promises to a later day. To keep these musings in some reasonable sequence it is a good time to engage in that dialogue.

Most have seen the various television cop shows where the detective makes some sort of deal with the arrestee to get the confession or other information. Sometimes the detective leads the person to believe that which is not true. But the TV character is usually the lead actor and as such he must have personal integrity and stops short of outright lying to the “perp”.

Most people are ill-equipped to handle an interrogation or as they are euphemistically called today an interview. Today’s police or, more broadly, law enforcement interviews are not the type generally depicted in movies or on television. They prey on a persons emotions, doubts and fears primarily. Plus, there may be out right lying about knowledge, evidence or other incriminating matters to get the person to make the statements desired. Courts have held that it is permissible for law enforcement to lie to people to get information as an acceptable form of investigative technique. Some common examples are the pretense of having all that is needed and giving the person a chance to save themselves. The pretense of being a friend to the person and the statements made will help that person either avoid charges or will get a better sentence. The assertion the agent “will go to bat” with the prosecutor or the judge for the benefit of the person. Another “oldie but goodie” is commiserating with the person, that is, pretending to have empathy with them and understanding what they did, just explain it a little more. One of my favorite techniques is the “brother in law” scenario. In this instance the investigator just happens to have a brother in law who was in the same situation as the person being interrogated. The investigator explains how he talked to his brother in law and the brother in law “came clean” admitted to his offense and the investigator was able to significantly help the brother in law.

Except this was all a lie there was never such a brother in law. Another ploy, is the “We can end this today, if you talk to me.” The inference is the investigation will stop and there will be no further jeopardy for the person, if they just admit to the acts desired by the agent.

So, with all of this arrayed against you, what do you do? The answer to this is as obvious as it is simple. You exercise your rights under both the 5th and 6th Amendments to the Constitution. First, you state that you are exercising your right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment (you must phrase it this way). Merely refusing to talk will not accomplish your legal goal, which is to not have your silence used against your interests. Second, you excercise your right to have an attorney of your choice (preferably) to counsel with you before any questioning. We have a small sign in our office library which states, “You have the right to remain silent, we suggest you consider it.” When there is an investigation into a criminal offense you should more than consider it, you should exercise it. The examples above are real. They are all statements which were used to get the person to make incriminating statements.

Remember these are your rights and you must be the one to exercise them. Next time we will talk about your rights, warrants and consent.

Until then,

Your rights use them or lose them.