Can the police lie to me when asking me questions?

Written by: Christopher Yotz

The short answer is, yes. The police are legally allowed to be untruthful (with very few exceptions) in order to get someone to talk or otherwise give the police what they want.

Like many myths in the law, I blame Hollywood. The movies and television perpetuate so many false legal claims and false results that I’m astounded. But, they keep using these falsehoods and people begin to believe that they are true. Look at it this way; if an undercover officer always had to tell the truth to the “bad guys” then do you really think the concept of undercover officers would even exist?

            As I often do, let’s take a DWI stop for example. Let’s say the police have stopped you for a traffic violation and they want to escalate the stop to investigate you for DWI. The officer typically asks if you’ve been drinking. Let’s say you tell the officer, no. Then the officer says, “come on, I can smell it on your breath.” Even if the officer couldn’t really smell the alcohol they can make factual claims to you about other evidence against you in order to get a confession.

            Let’s take another example. Let’s say the police stop you for a traffic violation and the officer tells you he can smell marijuana and that if you just tell him where it is and let him search without getting a warrant then it will go easier for you. He can say this to you even if he can’t smell the marijuana.

            In both of these examples the officer is trying to get you to confess to a crime by leading you to believe he already has the evidence against you. I’m always surprised how often this works. If an officer is trying to convince you that he has all the evidence he needs to arrest you then he must not. If he did, then you would already be under arrest rather than having a discussion about how easily the officer could arrest you.

            Please also see my other blog post titled Should I answer questions from the police. As I said in that post, “You have a right to remain silent and you should use it.”

Should I agree to let a police officer search me, my car or house?

Written by: Christopher Yotz

            No, no, no, no, no!

            If that wasn’t plain enough I’ll say it again. No, you do not have to consent to a search nor should you. Attorneys see the opposite of this all the time. A situation where the officer has no basis for a search so they just ask for permission, and get it. If you consent to a search, you are waiving your fourth amendment rights against unreasonable searches and you take away one of the possible items an attorney can use to help you later. Don’t do it. It will not make you look innocent by agreeing to a search. It simply gives the police evidence they didn’t have to work for.

            Please note that I am not saying you should fight the officer, argue or try and prevent them from searching. You simply say, no. If the officer intends to search then they will search. But, by saying no you have a chance for your attorney to fight the search in court.

            If the officer asks why you won’t agree to the search then you can either refuse to answer or state that you will not waive your constitutional rights under any circumstances. (Please see my blog entry about whether you have to answer questions by the police).

            So, back to the beginning. If the police ask for your permission to search you, your car or house the answer is? (Everyone together now), NO!!