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Is a police officer obligated to be honest?

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2023 | Criminal Defense

If you go to court, they may ask you to swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you get arrested by a police officer, that officer may advise you that anything you say or do can be used against you in a court of law. Your words are incredibly critical to your case.

All of this makes you feel like it’s very important for you to be honest, and you may assume that police officers are held to the same standard. But do they actually have to be honest when talking to you?

Lying is often completely legal

There are exceptions, such as when a police officer is accused of entrapment – convincing someone to commit a crime they wouldn’t have carried out otherwise, perhaps by deceiving them – but lying is generally legal. Police officers have no requirement to tell the truth or to be honest with a suspect.

Often, the police will use this as a means of manipulation. They may target young offenders, trying to get them to confess to things that they did – or even things they never did.

For instance, a police officer may tell a teenage suspect that they can go home if they just admit that they did the crime, and that person may then say whatever it is that the police want to hear just so they can go back to their parents. Or the police may lie about having testimony from another suspect, claiming that it’s a guaranteed conviction and so the person they’re interrogating might as well admit what they did. 

But the police officers may not actually have that testimony at all, and they’re just making up evidence to see if they can coerce a confession. There are even some cases in which this can lead to false confessions from innocent people. That’s why it’s so important that those who are dealing with the authorities understand all of their legal rights.