Couple weeks back an avid reader suggested that I write about police interrogations. I liked the idea and finally came up with this. If you have any suggestions for topics please feel free to send them along and I will do my best to write about them. First my disclaimer, I am not a police officer, have never been trained in interrogation and I am not an expert in this area. The following about police interrogation is from my experience in viewing these types of interactions.
There are many things that work against you during an interrogation. The more you understand the process the better you can protect yourself. The best advice is to stay silent and get a lawyer as soon as possible. Aside from that, here are a few points to keep in mind.
The speed of the process. I hear the words, “well it all just happened so quickly” way too often. That is one of the largest problems working against you. Something happens, you get arrested, driven back to the police station, and then they start asking questions. The pace really bothers a lot of people, and it hurts their concentration. A lot of people are still trying to figure out what just happened at the scene, or are stunned about being arrested and as a result don’t pay attention at the police station. It is important that you stay focused, and in the moment.
The atmosphere. The area that you are usually brought into is a small bare room. The room is uncomfortable and it makes a lot of people uneasy and gives them a feeling of not being in control. There is usually a double sided mirror, video recording, some old chairs, uncomfortable lighting, and a sorry looking table. All this can make people feel uneasy. When you feel uneasy, it gives the other side the advantage.
The numbers. There are usually at least two officers there when the questioning happens. This uneven number can make people feel helpless, especially in a small room. The police do have to give you your Miranda rights. Those are usually given at the beginning when the conversation is still pretty easygoing. Because of the light atmosphere at the beginning, a lot of people sign away their rights. However, once the questioning gets going most regret waiving their rights. The police don’t have to let you know that you can still assert your right to an attorney even after you waive your rights. Remember to ask for an attorney before you speak with them, but even if you sign a waiver, you can still ask for an attorney later on.
Picture Taken By Ian Britton: http://www.ianbritton.co.uk/
The questioning. The police are very good at getting people talking. At the beginning of the questioning, they tend to ask easy questions. This usually gets people use to talking to them. We as a society have a tendency to keep talking once we start talking. The police may also use small amounts of outside information, like we talked to this person or we found this evidence, to encourage you further.
Video tapes and signed confessions. Usually every interviewed is video taped and the police will ask you to sign a written confession. A video taped signed confession can be devastating, and they usually are. Most of the time they are a key piece of the prosecution puzzle. Even if the police have a lot of physical or derivative evidence, they must link the evidence together to point at you. When you have a signed written confession you are helping the police tie the evidence together. You can be even filling in gaps that the police could not solve without more information.
The majority of police officers are nice to talk to and pretty helpful. However, they have a job to do and cases to investigate. A large part of their investigation requires them to question people. Knowing that, it is very important that you stay vigilant and protect yourself at all times. After all, you wouldn’t tell your spouse about the details of the bachelor or bachelorette party, would you? Then again I wouldn’t want to see the thing your spouse may do in response to you invoking your right to remain silent, or to an attorney.
Arrests and Interrogations FAQ
Mark A. Godsey: Shining the Bright Light on Police Interrogation in America
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