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Can police officers legally lie to you?

If you have committed a criminal offense or know someone who has, you may expect police officers to question you eventually. Even if you have little or nothing to hide, cooperating with a police investigation may not be in your interests. After all, you may inadvertently say something incriminating.

Before conducting custodial interrogations, members of law enforcement typically must advise you of your legal rights. These include both your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present for police questioning. Regrettably, during this questioning, officers may deceive you about many matters.

When officers do not have to tell the truth

Police officers have no general legal obligation to be truthful with you. In fact, during a custodial interrogation, they may make up evidence, witness statements or virtually anything else. They typically may also lie to you about the results of a polygraph test. Consequently, during police questioning, you may simply not know what is true and what is false.

When officers must be truthful

While officers can deceive you about many matters, they must be honest about your legal rights. That is, they cannot legally tell you you must talk to them or cannot have legal counsel. If they lie about these matters, any information they gain from you may be inadmissible in court.

Police officers clearly have an unfair advantage when questioning criminal suspects and others. Ultimately, any steps you take to level the playing field, including asserting your legal rights, may help you avoid incriminating yourself.

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