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Dirty Tricks the Police Use Against Criminal Suspects


Troy, NY, Criminal Defense Law Firm

If the police suspect you of committing a crime and seek you question you, remember that you have a constitutional right to remain silent. That means that if you tell the police you don’t want to talk to them without a lawyer present, they are obligated to stop questioning you until your lawyer arrives.

You should definitely invoke your right to silence, because the police are full of dirty tricks that they use to elicit damaging answers from you, along with other questionable tactics that they can use against you even if you do refuse to talk to them. Please see the following examples.

Interrogation Techniques

“Your accomplice already told us everything – so you might as well just ‘fess up’ and make it easy on yourself.”

Don’t fall for it. He may have, or he may not have. If the police manage to secure a confession from you this way, it can be used against you even if it was based on a lie. Although you have a constitutional right not to be subject to compelled self-incrimination, most forms of “confession by trickery” are not considered “compelled.”

“We found your fingerprints at the scene of the crime”

Maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t. The same tactic is at work here. If they can get you to confess (even if you are innocent and you are confessing in the hope of a lenient plea bargain), your confession can be used as powerful evidence against you. Recanting your confession later will only make you look dishonest.

“Would you like a glass of water?”

Drinking a glass of water will leave a small sample of your saliva on the container, and saliva contains your DNA. If the police don’t have enough evidence to compel you to submit to a DNA test, don’t give them a gift by leaving your DNA on a drink container.

“The polygraph test results prove you’re lying.”

It’s easy for the police to rig a fake polygraph test that they can then interpret to “prove” you are lying. In any case, it is very difficult to admit a polygraph test into evidence in a criminal prosecution – even fairly administered tests are notoriously unreliable.

“We have eyewitnesses who saw you at the scene of the crime.”

Demand that the police produce these “eyewitnesses” – if they exist at all. If they are real eyewitnesses, they should be able to identify you in a lineup.

“Things will go much easier on you if you just confess.”

Not quite – on the contrary, things will go much easier on the prosecution if you confess. This is the police, not your priest. If they had enough evidence to convict you without a confession, they probably wouldn’t be asking for it. Confession may be good for the soul, but confessing to the police is likely to result in incarceration, not forgiveness.

Implying that refusing to answer their questions amounts to “obstruction of justice”

Destroying evidence is obstruction of justice. Coaching a witness on how to lie under oath is also obstruction of justice. Refusing to answer the police’s questions is not obstruction of justice – in fact, it’s your constitutional right. If the police begin to question you, tell them you cannot answer any questions unless your lawyer is present. Technically, they cannot use any of your answers against you anyway unless they have “read you your rights” (but don’t count on that).

The good cop/bad cop routine

Most people are familiar with this one. The job of the “bad cop” is to intimidate you, while the job of the “good cop” is to soothe you into confessing or giving consent to a search. This consent is in order to placate the “bad cop” who might just lose control if you don’t follow the good cop’s advice. This is when you really need legal representation. And believe us, we know exactly how to play the “good lawyer/bad lawyer” routine with the prosecution.

“This is strictly off the record” – but your conversation is being secretly recorded anyway

“He told me this conversation was off the record” is no defense against a prosecution based on a confession – unless the confession was made to your lawyer. In that case, it absolutely cannot be used against you as long as you told it to your lawyer with the expectation of confidentiality, which covers almost any lawyer/client communication.

Other Sneaky Tactics

Bugging your jail cell and recording your conversation with your cellmate

The police don’t need a warrant to record a conversation between two people as long as one of them consents to being recorded. If you find yourself in jail with a cellmate, don’t talk about your crime. Assume that everything you say is being recorded.

Digging through your garbage

The Fourth Amendment protects you against unreasonable search and seizure. This means that a warrant is required, supported by probable cause, to invade your privacy by, for example, searching your bedroom. Garbage, however, is considered abandoned property, and people are not thought to have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their garbage. Be careful what you throw away if some of your garbage might make you look guilty.

Searching your property using a police dog who “reacts” in very subtle ways

The reaction of a police dog trained to sniff for drugs can be used as probable cause to, for example, open the trunk of your car. But exactly what constitutes a “reaction”? Barking and snarling would probably do. But police can train dogs to “react” in ways so subtle that you might not even notice it. What if the police simply want to conduct a warrantless search of your car trunk? They could bring a police dog and claim that he “reacted” (when in fact he didn’t) as a pretext for searching your trunk.

Don’t Take Chances with Your Future

If you have been charged with a crime, your life could be turned upside down. And without proper legal representation, you could be convicted or railroaded into a plea bargain – even if you are innocent. Missing a critical deadline, for example, could put you in a very disadvantageous position. You need someone in your corner, right now.

A criminal prosecution is a war, and at Hacker Murphy, we fight to win. If you have been charged with a crime or if you are being investigated for one, contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation by phone, at our office in Troy, or even in jail.