In general, the goal of police officers is to support the community and maintain public safety. As children, we learn to assume certain qualities of police officers, like honesty.
TV and movies show the extreme sides of what we know about police officers, often emphasizing myths we either assumed or learned through misinformation.
Here’s what you should know about when officers can mislead you.
At the beginning of an investigation, officers may still be looking for information. Unfortunately, you could get caught in the middle of an investigation before they start making arrests.
During these initial stages of the investigation, an officer may use clever tactics to encourage you to give them the information they are looking for, using statements such as:
- Your friends already gave us the information we need.
- We can help you get a lighter sentence if you talk.
- You are not under arrest; we just want to talk.
Often these statements and others like them are either half-truths or promises the officer cannot make. For example, officers ultimately do not have much (if any) influence on sentencing.
Remember your rights
Even if you are under arrest, you do not need to answer an officer’s questions before your attorney arrives. In cases where you are unsure of whether you are under arrest, you should ask the officer. If you are not under arrest, you can ask the officer if you are free to leave.
Even though officers do not have to be completely honest with you while trying to get you to talk, you can face severe consequences if you lie to an officer. Keep in mind, if you lie to a police officer, you could face perjury charges in addition to the other potential charges. If you are unsure about whether you should answer an officer’s questions, you should request to speak to an attorney.