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Can Police Officers Lie to you?

Can Police Officers Lie to You? People who have been interrogated after being charged with DUI, theft, or domestic violence or any violent crimes always want to know whether police can lie to you in an interrogation, well here is your answer. In Frazier v. Cupp, two men were arrested for murder and separately brought into interrogation rooms[1]. During the interrogation of Frazier, who was reluctant to talk, police told him that Rawls (his cousin) had confessed. Frazier initially denied this but soon after, police elicited a false confession. The Supreme Court ruled that the confession of Frazier was still admissible. This case, although not publicly invoking the right for police to use deceptive tactics, has carved an exception for them to do so. Police can now tell the accused a lie in order to encourage him to confess. Police often use tactics like telling the accused that they found his blood or DNA on the victim, that someone else has confessed or that they have evidence that the accused has committed the crime. Marty Tankleff was accused of murdering his parents when he was 17 years old. He originally denied that he had done this with strong conviction. At this point police told him that his hair had been found on his mother, that a humidity test had indicated he had showered which explained the lack of blood on him, and that his father had woken up from a coma and said that Marty was the killer. These were all lies. After hearing the lies, Marty eventually became disoriented and confessed to the crime. He was convicted in 1989 and in 2008 his conviction was later vacated with all charges dismissed[2]. This is an extreme example but pursuant to the Frazier v. Cupp ruling and the case law following that ruling, the police are allowed to use deception like this to make someone confess. These deceptive tactics can be the root of many problems. Luckily for Marty Tankleff this case was later reversed but it was these deceptive police tactics that allowed Marty to be convicted in the first place. It can be argued that the Frazier v. Cupp decision is a positive decision because it allows police to get a confession out of a guilty individual, who has committed a crime and covered it up. The problem here is that police often abuse this exception and look for confessions so that they can close the case. Many times the police do not have any corroborating evidence but will use deceptive tactics because they know if they get a confession then the case is closed for everyone, including the false confessor. If an accused has held strong to his claim of innocence, these tactics will often elicit the first sign of weakness. It is hard for the accused to understand how all of these lies by police could have occurred, so the accused often starts to entertain the idea that all of these statements might be true.   If you have been taken advantage of by an officer, or admitted to a crime you did not commit, please contact The Law Offices of Bradley Corbett IMMEDIATLY to see what we can do for you.
[1] Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731 (U.S. 1969)
[2] Kassin, Saul M., The Psychology of Confessions. Annual Review of Law & Social Science, Vol. 4, pg. 202, December 2008. See also:

Bradley Corbett

Bradley Corbett is a criminal defense attorney in San Diego. He graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo Utah in 2004. Later he enrolled at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego where he participated in a prestigious internship program with the Los Angeles County Public Defender. Since then he has handled over 2,000 cases.

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