When someone is suspected of committing a criminal act, many times the police will bring that person in to custody to interrogate.
The interrogation is nothing like how it is portrayed on television shows. "Law & Order" and other procedurals make the interrogation look like a scenario where the person being interviewed should just tell the police everything: just be honest, let yourself go and tell them as much as you know. The police will certainly be nice to you if you do that, right?
The perception is that telling the police whatever you can is the best way for a suspect to get a reduced sentence or punishment -- or that somehow, the suspect's honesty will melt the heart of the interrogators and prosecutors, leading to the suspect getting out of a bad situation.
To be fair, there are cases where this happens; but many, many other cases where the suspect gives up everything they know (or says the wrong thing) in an interrogation leads to serious consequences.
In addition, the interrogation room is not exactly the most ethical of places. Police may use shady tactics or fail to inform a suspect of their rights. They may lead the suspect in certain directions with the way they speak or the information they choose to disclose (or hide). And the thing is, in many instances, this is totally acceptable.
A case out of Wisconsin highlights this fact. A man was being interrogated for a sexual assault case. The police did not read the man his Miranda rights because he came in for voluntary questioning (meaning he technically wasn't in custody). Interrogators also made it seem like the evidence against the man was overwhelming; and that if he went to jail without saying anything, he wouldn't be able to call anyone for help (implying a call to a lawyer was out of the question).
As a result, the man confessed to the crime and was convicted. He had no lawyer by his side. He challenged the decision, saying he was coerced to confess by the interrogators. However, his appeal was denied by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which said the police can use such tactics so long as they "do not exceed the defendant's ability to resist."
Source: State Bar of Wisconsin, "In Criminal Case, Supreme Court Upholds Confession Despite Alleged Police Coercion," Joe Forward, Jan. 9, 2013
- Our law firm has experience defending suspects who are accused of crimes that are sexual in nature. Please visit our Connecticut sex crime defense page to learn more.
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