Let's say that I'm being questioned by police as a suspect, and I'm too stupid to have asked for an attorney I could trust to be there.

The police are going to try to get me to do things that may be against my own self interest, such as answering potentially incriminating questions, provide my DNA/fingerprints to them, or consent to a search. The police are going to do their best to make it sound as if I should, or have to, do this without informing me that I have a choice in the matter, all this stuff helps them with their job and they have no incentive not to do so.

Let's say I do not wish to go along with one of the things the police want from me, like provide my DNA. Without an attorney present for me to consult with I ask the police offers trying to convince me I need to give my DNA whether I am legally required to provide it.

My question is whether or not the police officer has to inform me that I could refuse to give the DNA sample? A police officer has the right to utilize deception to get evidence, and I've already foolishly sacrificed my own right to an attorney present to answer these sort of questions for me. So can a police officer knowingly deceive me into thinking I have to provide my DNA after I explicitly asked him whether I was compelled to do so? Or is the police officer still held to a standard of honesty when it comes to describing my legal rights, even if he can otherwise freely deceive me?

I know from a previous question that the police officers don't need to be up front with whether or not they are detaining me, but in this case I'm not asking whether they have the right to be evasive, and instead whether they can actively misrepresent the facts of my legal rights and requirements.

I use DNA sample as my example here, but I'm curious for any situation where a suspect may be uncertain of whether or not their legally required to consent to something an officer wants, not just providing DNA samples.

  • 4
    I think there is a related question that is more useful. Rather than ask the police if you are legally compelled to do something, ask them if they are going to arrest you if you do not do it. IANAL but I think a positive answer (yes, we will arrest you) could be useful to you later (you only complied under duress of arrest and not voluntarily) and a negative response (no we will not arrest you) could be useful to you if they do in fact arrest you.
    – emory
    Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 2:06

1 Answer 1


Police can lie

However, in the United States they have to read you your Miranda warning (most other democratic countries have similar warnings):

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we ask you any questions. You have the right to have a lawyer with you during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. If you decide to answer questions now without a lawyer present, you have the right to stop answering at any time.

They have told you everything they are required to tell you - effectively “we are not on your side.” After that, they can lie their asses off.

Of course, they wouldn’t ask you for a DNA sample - they’d ask you if you’d like a glass of water. Then they’ll take the DNA from that.

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    This seems to imply they could threaten to shoot you (knowing they could not legally do so) if you don't, say, consent to a search.
    – forest
    Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 6:59
  • 5
    @forest lying does not encompass coercion
    – Dale M
    Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 10:01
  • 1
    There are some limits to police lying. If their lies amount to coercion then its not allowed. But the limits are pretty broad. In many cases police have obtained false confessions by claiming they have enough evidence to convict, so the suspect would be better off confessing in the hope of more lenient treatment. theappeal.org/court-rules-police-cant-lie-about-lie-detectors Commented Oct 13, 2020 at 15:20

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