A new Netflix show is shedding light on the use of police tactics to elicit a confession from those accused of crimes. Without giving too much away, the Netflix show “The Innocent Man” showcases how detectives sought to convince accused men that they committed acts of crime. All the while the men maintained that what they were found guilty of “was only a dream.”

Police Officer Tactics Showcased on Netflix Hit

False confessions have become a hot button topic as more and more cases have been exposed. If you have been accused of a crime you know you did not commit, you need to be aware of the police tactics an officer might use.

Police Officer Tactics

If you have ever been arrested and questioned by police, you know how frightening that situation can be. Police officers and investigators will use any number of tactics to get a confession from you. Below we outline what it means to be arrested, and the tactics to be aware of should you be arrested.

Being Arrested by a Police Officer

When you are arrested by a police officer, there is a specific set of events that occur. A police officer must follow legal procedures from arrest to actual placement of a suspect in jail. It’s important to be aware of what these procedures are, as if any of these are violated, a criminal defense attorney may be able to build a strong defense off of those violations.

An “arrest” is when a police officer takes a suspect into custody.

Miranda Rights

If you’ve ever watched a law-themed TV show you might be familiar with the Miranda Rights. In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miranda v. Arizona, that individuals that have been arrested because they are believed to have committed a crime are allowed certain rights that must be explained to them prior to any police questioning. “Miranda Rights” are mean to protect a suspect from self-incriminating themselves and is protected under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Those “Miranda Rights” are as follows:

  • You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions.
  • Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish.
  • If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.
  • Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?

To Note: Miranda rights only need to be ready when an individual has been taken into police custody and is under interrogation.

Important to Know

There are a number of tactics that can be employed by police officers to obtain confessions from individuals accused of committing crimes. These tactics are often meant to trip an individual up, so if you are wanted for questioning, you should know what to expect and how to protect your legal rights.

If you are wanted for an interview about a crime, you need to remember these two key elements:

  • Interrogations are meant to produce confessions
  • The best way to protect yourself – even if you know you are innocent – is to not make a statement without first talking to a criminal defense attorney. Remember that the best way avoid saying something that might be incriminating is to not say it at all.

If an officer wants to question you, tell them that you will not make a statement without an attorney being present. You might need to repeat this, but it’s best if you stay steadfast with your need for an attorney, regardless of whatever tactics they might use to get you to talk.

Additionally, it has been shown that police tactics can often encourage someone to confess to a crime they did not commit. Often times accused suspects confess to a crime, and are then exonerated by DNA evidence that proves they were not guilty. Research has been done over the years on why this happen, and proves that often scared juveniles and people with diminished mental capacity are at greater risk for providing false confessions. Often times these individuals are scared and lured by the tactics in hopes that they can just get to the end of the interrogation and then go home. As a result, many interrogations are now recorded on audio and video.

Tactics Employed During Interrogated

Below we outline a number of tactics that might be used by police officers during an interrogation.

The Reid Technique

The Reid Technique was first developed in the 1940s. This will seem familiar, as it is the type of questioning that you are used to seeing in the media, on movies and television. Suspects are placed in a dingy room in the police station, and are usually placed with one “good cop,” and one “bad cop.”

On TV and in movies, you are most likely able to spot this technique, and call it out for how obvious it may seem, but this type of questioning is actually very effective in real life when it comes to obtaining confessions. Within the Reid Technique, there are three concepts that police rely on to convince the suspect that it is in his or her best interested to confess to a crime, regardless of if they are guilty or not. Here are those three concepts:

  • Isolation. The interrogators will isolate the suspect from family and friends in an attempt to make that person feel alone, hence the often used windowless interrogation room.
  • Maximization. An interrogating officer will start out stating that the suspect is guilty and that the suspect and all the other people on the case know that the suspect is guilty. An officer will present the theory of how the crime went down. Often times this is based on evidence, and other times the officer is simply grappling for straws and fabricating the story in an attempt to get the actual full story. During this presentation of the “theory,” an officer will essentially “drop breadcrumbs,” or offer details that a suspect will then parrot back to the officer. Any claims by the suspect are ignored or refuted by the interrogator. Hence, the “bad cop” role. The “bad cop” knows the suspect is lying, knows the suspect committed the crime, and knows that the suspect is only wasting everyone’s time by refusing to come clean.
  • Minimization. After the “maximization” part of the interview is complete, the officer will move on to the “good cop” role of “minimization.” This is when the interrogator tells the suspect that they believe the motives behind the crime, and that everyone else will also understand the motives, so why not just confess? Oftentimes individuals will be lured with promises of a lesser charge if they confess, or the ability to just go home.

The best way to defend yourself against the Reid Technique is to avoid saying anything and asking for a lawyer.

Informal Questioning Tactics

Not all interrogations happen in a small, windowless room. Often times, police interaction occurs outside of the police station, when you are stopped for a traffic violation or other violation. These conversations are called “informal questioning” and happens every time you interact with a police officer. Just as with a formal interrogation, it’s important to remember there are things you can do to defend yourself.

If you are stopped by a police officer and are unsure why, assume that the officer suspects you have committed a crime – either speeding, driving with a broken tail-light, or even something as serious as murder. At any point, that officer will try to get you to confess to the crime they suspect you committed. Remember this, and act accordingly. If it’s a simple violation, such as a speeding ticket, wait for the ticket to be written, etc… and then ask if you are free to leave. If you are released, then leave. But if an officer continues to informally interrogate you, you are able to say you do not wish to answer any questions and that you would like to speak to an attorney.

A Note About Lying

We all agree that lying is not good, but that doesn’t mean that lies aren’t told every day, even by police officers. There is no law or rule that says a police officer cannot lie or make up evidence. That means police officers can even make up that a co-defendant has confessed to a crime. There are some things police are prohibited from, including making threats and promises. But there are many grey areas when it comes to these threats or promises, and police interrogation tactics often cross into that grey area.

Bottom Line: the best way to defend yourself when being questioned by an officer is to ensure that a defense attorney is with you. Your defense attorney will investigate the case and be able to advise you on your best defense.

Working with a Criminal Defense Attorney

As you can see, being interrogated by a police officer, even if it’s an informal situation can be a potentially incriminating experience. An experience criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you on the best defense as well as protect you during an interrogation. That is why it is key to not say anything until you have received legal guidance.

Any criminalcharge could result in prison time, other serious penalties, and a criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. The good news is that there is a defense to every charge or accusation. Contact our office in Los Angeles at 562-287-5333, at 562-287-5333 or by e-mail to discuss your case with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.

Daniel R. Perlman, Esq.
Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman