Should I Talk to the Police?

What you need to to know before you talk to the police:

  1. The law allows police to use deception during suspect questioning.
  2. The police do not have to read a suspect his Miranda rights if he is not in “custody.”
  3. Once a suspect asks for an attorney, the police must stop questioning him.
  4. You should ask for an attorney in clear, plain language, “I want a lawyer.” “Do I need an attorney?” does not work.
  5. Everything you say WILL be used against you, time and time again.
  6. Even if you have done nothing wrong, lying to police may be a crime in and of itself.
  7. Innocent people are charged and even convicted of crimes.
  8. If you exercise your 5th Amendment right to remain silent, the police may suspect you are guilty. But, if you give a statement, it may become crystal clear you are guilty.
  9. Most interviews are not recorded. Police will be able to “testify” about what you said in the interview.


Police detectives receive extensive training on how to get “confessions” from suspects. Police are taught to use various techniques when questioning a suspect to illicit admissions and condemning evidence. Over the years, detectives repeat their training, honing their skills. Most people have never been questioned by the police and are unfamiliar with the techniques and methods used.

It is within the law for the police to mislead a suspect during interrogations. Both the Tennessee Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court have ruled that law enforcement may “lie” to a suspect during questioning in an attempt to obtain statements. It can be a criminal offense for a suspect to “lie” to investigators during questioning. Police often mislead suspects in many ways during interrogations. They exaggerate the amount or accuracy of evidence they have. They may state they have physical evidence of a crime when they do not. They can tell suspects that other people have already implicated them in the crime. They can exaggerate the seriousness of the crime.

Police may tell a suspect that he is free to leave at any time. Police do this to show that the suspect is not in “custody,” therefore, there is no requirement for the police to read a suspect his Miranda rights. Police may “release” a suspect from custody to further bolster their position that the person is not “in custody.” Even thought police release a suspect, they may have every intention of arresting that person at a later time. Police prefer to not review Miranda rights with a person, because when a suspect feels that he is under suspicion, he is less likely to provide the police with admissions or confessions.

Police may “down play” or minimize a set of events in an effort to get a suspect to make admissions or confessions. Police may say things like, “I really don’t care about this, but my supervisor wants me to get a statement from you.” “As far as I’m concerned, this should not even be a crime.”

Police may identify with the suspect to make him feel justified or increase his comfort level as he talks to police. Police often say things like, “I know how you feel. I’ve been there myself.” They may give “examples” of when they did a similar act as the suspect. They may act very “understanding” or “sympathetic.”

Police often offer a suspect two factual alternatives and ask the suspect to choose one. One of the alternatives will be more socially acceptable than the other. This is an attempt to have the suspect begin to make admissions. He may admit that he was present or that he witnessed the crime. For example, the police may say, “Look, we know that you shot him. My question for you is was it in self-defense or was it murder?” The suspect will then say, “Oh, it was self-defense.” The police now have an admission that the suspect shot someone. Or police may say, “Ok, about this thing with the girl. Was she the one coming on to you?” Now police have the suspect admitting that there was some inappropriate behavior between the suspect and the victim.

Police will not allow the suspect to say that he is not guilty. Law enforcement does not want a suspect reinforcing the idea of innocence. Police will interrupt a suspect when he says that he is not guilty and say things like, “I know that you did something.”

Police will offer the suspect “help” if he will only confess to the crime. Police will often offer to help the suspect get psychological or spiritual counseling if he will just admit what he did wrong.

Police may shift blame to another person or set of facts, leading the suspect to relax and let down his guard. Slowly, the interviewer will work to have the suspect make small admissions of fact that will establish a criminal case.

Police will incorporate a suspects denials and excuses into the interview, pointing out errors and mistakes in logic, narrowing the questions, and leading to the conclusion of guilt.

Police have been trained that through close observation, they can act as a human lie-detector. Physical clues such as sweating, nervousness, tremors, and visual gaze are all used to conclude that a person is deceptive. People who are sensitive, have a strong sense of guilt or responsibility, or have never been questioned by the police before may also exhibit these signs. Should a suspect become upset and cry, police will use this to infer guilt.

Police may begin an interrogation with an “interview.” This interview is non-accusatory conversation, used by the police to observe a suspects behavior and to establish a measurement for honest and deceptive behavior. It is not a time when the police are showing compassion or sympathy for the suspect.

Once a suspect makes admissions of guilt, the police both will repeat the admissions and have the suspect repeat the admissions in an effort to prevent the suspect from changing his story. This will include any corrections that the suspect wants to make.


I am innocent so it cannot hurt to talk to the police.

If I ask for an attorney, the police will think I am guilty.

The police are trying to help me.

The police say I can leave at any time.

If I talk to the police and tell them what I know, they will not charge me with a crime.

My family wants me to talk to the police.

An attorney cannot help me if I am guilty.

The police say that I don’t need an attorney.