Wednesday, June 18, 2014

101 Things the Author Needs to Know

About the Police and the Law

"Can the police lie to me?"


The short answer is yes.

The Supreme Court has ruled that it is okay for the police to stretch the truth in the course of an investigation.

What does that mean for you?

The police can tell you that they have a confession from someone else that implicates you…when they don’t.

The police can tell you they have a security video of you committing a crime…when they don’t.

The police can tell you there were fingerprints left behind that they believe are yours…when they don’t.

They have a job to do…to catch bad guys.  Bad buys lie all the time, so this ability of theirs to stretch the truth evens up the playing field a little.

There are situations where they cannot fib.  Telling you your license is expired when it’s not.  Telling you your taillights are out, when they’re fine.  But when the police officer gets on the witness stand and tells the judge that when he pulled you over and you rolled down the window he detected the odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from the interior of the car, even if it is a lie, how can it be questioned? He said he smelled it.  Now it’s your lawyer’s job to try to mitigate the damage the officer has done, or try to discredit the officer.  Not an easy thing to do.
Always be polite, refuse to answer any questions, ask for a lawyer. It is your Constitutional right and it cannot be held against you.


Tamara said...

Enjoying this, Jody.

Tamara said...

Enjoying this, Jody.

Tamara said...

Oh, dear, it tole me it didn't go through, so I did it again. Don't know how to delete second one.

Chris said...

Jody, as you know I live in the UK and obviously the changes you are talking about relate to what American police officers are able to do in pursuance of the truth. But I'm curious about what I thought was something immutable and common to both our countries...

I can see that the police misleading a suspect in an interview by giving a false impression of the evidence they have against them might be useful when they KNOW someone is guilty and are trying to get a breakthrough. It's shady but it happens. What I am amazed to hear you apparently saying is that your Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, a body dedicated to upholding the law and abiding by the truth, is now not just turning a blind eye to that but actually sanctioning it.

You then go on to mention police lying in court. Perhaps I'm welding together two separate elements here but are they also saying it's now okay for a police officer to stand in front of a judge and jury and lie in order to get a guilty verdict? Like witnesses and defendants, the police take an oath to tell the truth, it's what the justice system is based on. Not to do so is perjury. Can your Supreme Court sanction a change to this fundamental rule of law?

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. The Supreme Court upheld that police officers can lie to trick suspects into confessing. They don't condone lying on the witness stand, and in fact that is perjury. But police officers are human. When they KNOW someone is scum, guilty, or a shady SOB who sent his girlfriend to the hospital four times last year, and this person has gotten off in the past through loopholes, a heck of a lawyer, or perhaps a little witness intimidation, they are not above 'stretching' the truth at times to get the guy. You've heard of planting evidence. It happens. I can't tell you how many times I've heard a police officer say he pulled the driver over because his car crossed the yellow lines on the road (no alcohol or drugs or speed involved). Now that he's got him over, he can ask for license and registration and take a peek into the car while doing it. Oh, is that a baggie of heroin I see in your console? Step out of the car, sir.

How many times have you actually crossed the yellow lines in the roadway while driving normally? Never? Me either. But it's a tactic used to do a motor vehicle stop. The officer said he saw it and that was his legal reason for stopping the car.

If the officer fears getting into trouble at work for some sloppy police work, he might be tempted to beef up his story a little or back up what another officer said he saw. There are good cops and not so good cops. Just like any profession. They deal with the scum of the earth and sometimes they drop down to their level.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris...more.

"Law enforcement officials understand that service in their profession requires character and values and not simply technical proficiency. One of these values is honesty, which requires an officer to avoid such behaviors as lying for personal gain or during judicial proceedings. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that the duties of law enforcement may require limited officially sanctioned deception in the course of a criminal investigation.

The Court has referred to these officially sanctioned contrivances in general as “strategic deception.” The use of strategic deception by way of oral misrepresentation during interrogation is a police practice that the Court has permitted within limitations. The controversial question that has arisen in the appellate courts concerns whether fabricated documents containing falsehoods may lawfully be used during interrogation to encourage confessions."

Chris said...

The above section (undated), in quotation marks, seems to be a transcript of the Supreme Court's decision on what is now, within limits, ORALLY acceptable during the questioning of a suspect, prior to trial. They don't extend that to the judicial system itself. A policeman who stands up in court and tells lies about what the suspect said or did is still committing perjury. I asked the question, Jody, because having explained about the Supreme Court's new ruling governing police questioning you then painted a scene of a policeman in a courtroom lying. The implication seemed to be that it extended into the courtroom.

The question of whether WRITTEN 'evidence' containing falsehoods may also be used to gain a confession is raised in the quote but then not dealt with (in this section, at least). Clearly that is still a grey area for them. Verbal misdirection, it seems, is okay during questioning, but as to whether putting something misleading down in writing to gain a confession is permissible, that goes unanswered.

As to the rights and wrongs of all this - of course there are cases where they KNOW someone is guilty and either invent or plant evidence to 'prove' it. It would be naive to think otherwise. The problem arises when they are convinced that an innocent person is guilty. It may not happen very often but if it's your son/brother/grandma/you that evidence was planted on, maybe that wouldn't be so acceptable. An interesting feature, this. Look forward to the next one.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. Well, I'm glad I piqued your interest in this. Note too that the quoted portion talked about the appeals court having a problem with fabricated documents. Written misdirection is acceptable in the original trial. It is included in the transcripts of the police interrogations (that I type up every day) and get admitted into evidence.

The example I used about the cop testifying that he smelled alcohol was just used to hammer down the point that because misdirection has become acceptable, where does the cop draw the line for him/herself knowing that judges usually believe an officer? How do they stop themselves from getting caught up in their fervor to get the bad guy? Let me add...their fervor to get what they have convinced themselves is the bad guy. An innocent you/your mom/your son can get pulled into a situation and get 'jammed up' as all the gang bangers say. Just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I came close to being detained for opening my mouth at a private house party once. And it was an innocent comment said in front of an officer. He told me if I opened my mouth again I'd see the back of his cruiser. I was smart enough to zip it, but it hit me how easily a good girl could be in a position where she's calling her friends for bail money.