As a former prosecutor, I am keenly aware of the tools police use to acquire convictions. The most important and effective evidence in any criminal case is a confession. As a result good police detectives, federal agents and investigators will use an arsenal of time tested techniques to get suspects to speak with them. These tricks of he trade may seem sneaky but they are completely legal and ethical. Be conscious of the following :
1. GOOD COP #1 - If an officer tells you that you are not under arrest but he "just wants to talk to you." Your right to counsel does not commence until you are under a formal arrest. Crafty officers will try to questions suspects before "arresting" them.
2. YOU'RE FREE TO LEAVE- Generally when you are free to leave you should. If an officer invites you to his office and "just wants to hear your side of things" something is usually up.
3. GOOD COP #2 - Officers begin many interrogations with compliments. They may say that you were "brave" or that he understands why you took the actions at issue. At trial, no court will care why you said something. The court will only consider what you say to the officer.
4. BACKGROUND INFO - Smart officers will ask a suspect to tell him his address, birthday, where he went to school etc. In reality law enforcement has a plethora of tools to get this banal information. This is a technique used to make a suspect conformable and willing to give additional information.
5. CAN I BUY YOU A DRINK ? - Officers will offer you a drink or food prior to questions to loosen you up. This doesn't work in a nightclub. Don't let them play you.
6. BOLD FACE LIES- Officers are legally and ethically allowed to lie to you during questioning. For example: "your codefendant already told us everything" or "we found your DNA at the scene." Bogus. Think about it. If they had your DNA or a full confession from a co-defendant why would they need additional statements from you.
7. "JUST ONE MORE THING" An officer will often ask a suspect a question based in information he doesn't have. For example: "If we test the (rape) victim will we find your DNA ?" The officer just wants to see the suspect's reaction. It's a no win situation. If the suspect answers "no" the officer will not stop asking questions. If the suspect equivocates the officer will see that as consciousness of guilt.
10. "HAVE YOU STOPPED BEATING YOUR WIFE" Loaded questions. Also in the vein of no win interrogatories is the calculated question. Savvy officers will beguile their way into a search without probable cause. A seemingly easy question that corners you into a tricky second question. E.g. "You don't have any drugs on you do you." is followed by "Well then you wont mind if I search."
There are times where police have clear authority under the Fourth Amendment to search an individual without his permission. However the Fifth Amendment is absolute. As a result, in America citizens NEVER have to speak with the police.
In most circumstances a person will not lessen his criminal exposure by participating in a police interview. When approached by police it is within your rights to clearly tell them you don't want to speak with them. If a person is under arrest he can stop questioning by demanding the presence of an attorney.
If you find yourself in a situation where police are demanding answers and you feel threatened please do not hesitate to consider contacting a qualified attorney.