When it comes to criminal investigations, the interrogation process can be critical in determining whether or not a suspect is guilty. But are police officers allowed to lie during interrogations to get a confession?
What are the legalities of this controversial practice?
Frazier vs Cupp (1969) set the stage
According to a Supreme Court ruling regarding the conviction of Martin E. Frazier in the death of Russell Anton Marleau, the law allows police officers to lie during interrogations to obtain a confession from the suspect they are questioning. The legal system considers it acceptable because police officers need to be able to do everything in their power to find out the truth and thus build a strong case against suspects who are assumed guilty.
Police officers must still adhere to certain guidelines to protect the suspect’s rights. Forcing a suspect to confess through physical and verbal threats or outright violence is strictly forbidden, as that violates the suspect’s civil rights. It casts doubt on any confession extracted in this way.
However, using lies and deception has also resulted in several false confessions. This has resulted in numerous overturned convictions. Moreover, it underscores the fragility of admissions and how easily they can be manipulated if not treated with utmost caution by all involved parties. Unfortunately, the wrong person is convicted of a crime they did not commit while the actual perpetrator walks free.
When someone is arrested and charged with a crime, one of their most important rights at that moment is the right to remain silent. Once a suspect asks for representation, the police can no longer continue their interrogation. Everyone is entitled to due process of the law, and it’s essential they have someone to help protect those rights.