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Can the police lie to witnesses?

People sometimes assume that the police are going to be held to a strict moral standard. When talking to suspects, for instance, they assume that the police have to tell the truth. They think of things like lying or deceit as morally questionable, so they assume police officers are not allowed to do so under the current laws.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, the police do not have this sort of moral restriction, and they are often allowed to lie to suspects. Why would they do so?

Manipulating a confession

In some cases, the police are trying to manipulate a confession from the suspect. They will often do this if they’ve arrested teenagers who may not be familiar with the legal system itself. Officers could tell those teens that, if they just admit what they did, then they can go home and see their parents and put this whole thing behind them. But that’s not true. The confession simply gives the police more ammunition as they seek a conviction in court.

There are even cases where the police have been so effective at doing this that they have manipulated innocent people into making confessions for crimes that they didn’t commit. These false confessions have sometimes been exposed in the future by DNA evidence, but they suggest that there are many more false confessions that will never be properly identified.

This is why you don’t want to assume that the police are held to any type of higher standard or that they’re being honest. It’s important to understand your right to remain silent and the legal steps you can take during an arrest.