What Is an Officer Allowed to Do During an Interrogation?
There are few things more stressful, terrifying, and exhausting than being subjected to a formal police interrogation. Whether or not you are guilty of the crime, you’re still treated like a criminal. Most people never have to find this out the hard way, but those who do can be completely, 100% innocent and still end up behind bars with a criminal conviction after being interrogated. No, it’s not fair, and no, it is not right. But unfortunately, police are trained to do whatever it takes to obtain a confession from someone they presume is guilty, and legally, they have very few restrictions in their way.
False depictions of how interrogations work may have you believing it’s easy to avoid saying the wrong thing or get out of the situation, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Before you end up in an interrogation room, it is time to demand an attorney – and then keep your mouth shut.
How police can legally force false confessions
It does not matter how smart, clever, or innocent you are — the right police interrogator can get you to confess, even to a crime you did not commit. They want to interrogate you because they can get you to confess, and that is all they are truly interested in.
Understandably, this can be hard to believe. Why would anyone confess to serious crimes like murder or assault if they didn’t do it? How good could the interrogator actually be? Well, while interrogators are not psychologists, they are trained in breaking people down by any means necessary. John Oliver actually has an entire episode discussing the ways officers can force confessions, where he explains the tactics they use and why they work (warning: the attached link has colorful language as Mr. Oliver states his opinions on the matter).
In summary of his in-depth discussion, officers are trained in something called the Reid Technique, coined by Reid & Associates. This technique teaches interrogators to first interview someone to determine they’re a suspect, and then interrogate them to get a confession. During both parts, interrogating officers look for certain behavioral and vocal cues to indicate dishonesty or guilt as they ask twisting questions designed to trick the suspect. The problem? Nothing about the Reid Technique has any actual basis in science or fact. It is based purely on observation and assumption, and it’s only accurate in judging guilt 50% of the time. They are open about this, because it is entirely legal for them to do.
Believe it or not, police are legally allowed to lie to you. They are even allowed to lie about having incriminating evidence. Not only that, but they’re trained to prevent suspects from saying they didn’t do it, explicitly because once they say that, it’s harder to force a confession from them. Now, it may be slightly easier to see why an innocent person may confess to something they didn’t do:
- Because they have been worn down by several hours of pressure and interrogation (as they can last around 15 hours);
- Because they falsely assume they can recant their statement later (which is, in reality, much harder to do);
- Because the detective lied about having incriminating evidence and convinced the suspect there was no other option; and
- Because the suspect has been manipulated into doubting their own memory, an especially common outcome if the suspect is a child or developmentally disabled, or has been interrogated for 15 hours.
Officers are not allowed to physically intimidate you, promise you leniency, or feed you information not open to the public to get a confession, but they face practically zero consequences for doing so (even if their suspect is later exonerated), and so it happens anyways. The good news, if there is any, is that Texas requires all interrogations to be recorded from start to finish, which can make it harder to force a confession that isn’t dismissed in court. If the jury can hear your interrogator lie about evidence, or can hear you deny guilt until caving under pressure, they may be less likely to believe your confession — provided the jury is allowed to see or hear any part of that recorded interrogation session.
Protecting yourself and your rights during an interrogation
It is neither an insult to your intelligence nor an admittance of guilt when we say that you should not attempt an interrogation alone — or at all, if you can help it. The second you are suspected of a crime, you should call a Killeen and Copperas Cove defense attorney. It is the best way to protect your rights and prevent you from being forced into confessing to a crime you did not commit.
Before your attorney is present, you want to exercise your right to silence. This is incredibly important: keep in mind that officers will look for any loophole possible to get around that right. You must unambiguously assert your right to an attorney, and then unambiguously assert your right to silence, in that order. Also ensure to not only verbally accept the Miranda rights when they’re read to you upon request (if you are read them), but also refuse to sign anything they give you, no matter how they phrase it. It may be a waiver of your rights.
Once you invoke your rights, asserting your right to silence means, quite literally, not saying a single word to anyone other than your attorney. Until they show up and you are alone with them, say nothing. Not a comment about the weather, not a snarky assertion of your rights — nothing. Anything you say can be seen as you waiving your right to silence, and that is permission for the interrogation to continue without an attorney present.
Once you do have an attorney present, your case can begin to build. Your legal representation will investigate your case thoroughly and look for breaches of your rights and inadmissible actions by any officers involved before presenting the truth to the court in a way they respect and understand. No one should go to prison for a crime they didn’t commit, and they certainly shouldn’t be pressured into admitting to one.
The Killeen and Copperas Cove criminal defense attorneys at the Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm value your justice and freedom as much as you do. We want to be there every step of the way to protect and advocate for your rights with clear, compassionate representation and transparent explanations of what you should do and expect. Our team is proud to serve clients in Killeen, Copperas Cove, and throughout Central Texas. If you have been accused of a crime of any sort, don’t wait — call us today at 254-680-4655 or use our contact form, and we’ll get you through this together.
I’ve dedicated my legal career to defending my clients. I demand all the evidence. I investigate all the facts, the so-called witnesses and even the police officers. I make it my business to know the law. Cases can be won or lost before you even set foot inside the courtroom.
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