Can the police lie to me to get me to confess to a crime?


Unfortunately many people find this out too late.  Law enforcement officers are allowed to tell you a boldface lie in order to get you to confess to a crime.  To their credit, they are good at it, too.  They may get you in a room and tell you that your friend is in the next room and he has already confessed.  Or they may tell you that they found a weapon or drugs in your car, and you better “explain” it.  They may tell you “we only want to help you.”  Lies.  Lies.  And the law says it is OK for them to do so.

In a case from the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1989, two detectives admitted that they had lied to a defendant about the evidence in their possession.  The court said it didn’t matter.  Davis v. State, 551 So.2d 165 (Miss. 1989).  It seems grossly unfair, but the police are allowed to lie to you, but you can get yourself into real trouble if you lie to them.

Here is the catch, though.  For any confession to be admissible in the government’s case against you, the “confession” must have been given voluntarily and not given as a result of promises, threats, or inducements.  That is solid law in Mississippi, in both state and federal court.  Nelson v. State, 10 So.3d 898 (Miss. 2009).  What this means is that law enforcement officers can lie, but they can’t make promises, threaten you, or otherwise “induce” your statement or confession.  This distinction is as fine as frog hair, is very case-specific, and is the subject of much litigation year after year.  Getting a judge or jury to disregard a confession in a case is not easy, but it can be done.  Nobody likes a liar, not even when it’s the police, so a good lawyer will use that to your advantage.