When suspects are arrested on television and in movies, they are told they have certain rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. This is called the “Miranda warning,” and police must use it in real life as well.
The warning is so common that it is easy to overlook the important information in it. If you are arrested/detained or even asked to come in for questioning, it is unwise to answer questions or give statements without the benefit of a criminal defense attorney by your side. You may think you have nothing to worry about if you are innocent, but unfortunately, that isn’t true. False and coerced confessions are surprisingly common because of the techniques interrogators are legally allowed to use.
Be aware of psychological tactics and manipulation
Many American law enforcement officers who regularly conduct interrogations use what’s known as the “Reid technique.” This is a series of tactics meant to trick, scare, or coax a suspect into giving a confession, and the strategies are legal but highly manipulative.
Here are some examples of Reid techniques:
- Framing all questions with the presumption that “we know you did it”
- Interrogators may minimize the seriousness of the crime while suggesting that they would have been tempted to commit the same offense in that situation (again, presuming the suspect’s guilt)
- Having two interrogators act in opposite ways (good cop, bad cop) so that one of them can gain the suspect’s trust
- Scaring the suspect by making statements like “you are in serious trouble,” then saying they can help themselves by confessing
The Reid technique is widely used despite not being backed by data proving it to be effective. Sadly, it has led to a high number of wrongful convictions and false confessions
Exercise your right to an attorney
When questioned by police (whether you’ve been arrested or just stopped), you do need to provide some information when asked for it. You may need to tell the officer your name and provide photo ID, for instance. But once an officer starts to question you, it is perfectly legal and reasonable to politely refuse to provide answers until you have an attorney by your side.
You may worry that “lawyering up” will make you look guilty. But chances are good that if you are being questioned, the officer already assumes that you are guilty. Having a defense lawyer by your side will protect your rights and help you avoid being tricked, coerced or lured into giving a confession or making an incriminating statement.