I have always been fascinated by the statement that in the United States, police are allowed to lie to you about whatever they want in order to get a confession.

This statement is usually made to strongly recommend you invoke your right to silence and only talk to a lawyer.

Now, suppose a person being interrogated by police invokes his right to silence and counsel, requests a lawyer, and after a while somebody appears saying he is a lawyer, but in fact he is another police interrogator who will use the suspect's statements as evidence against them.

This seems obviously illegal, but that would mean that police can't really lie about anything they want. Does this mean that there are limits to what police can lie about?

  • Presumably police interrogators can't claim to be something other than police officers.
    – phoog
    Apr 14, 2016 at 7:28

1 Answer 1


Are police required to contact a real lawyer if you ask? give opinions from a number of lawyers and police in different jurisdictions. The basic consensus is that in most jurisdictions, such behavior will get the case thrown out of court and often get the police officer who tried this fired.

HOWEVER there was a case where this was tried and while the case was thrown out on appeal, it was not as simple as the postings in the above article may have made it appear.

This story shows a case where the Tennessee police actually did this. While the lower court allowed it because the defendant was "gullible", the appeals court rejected this argument.

[T]he conduct of the law enforcement officers in this case, and in particular Detective Henry, is so egregious that it simply cannot go unchecked. That Detective Henry would illegally pose as an attorney and arrange the circumstances of the defendant’s case to make it appear as though he had successfully undertaken legal representation of the defendant is abhorrent. That the detective would specifically instruct the defendant not to communicate the relationship to his appointed counsel, in what we can only assume was an effort to enlarge the time for the detective to gain incriminating information from the defendant, renders completely reprehensible the state action in this case. Given the unconscionable behavior of the state actors in this case and the fact that the defendant was essentially prevented from proving prejudice through no fault of his own, we have no trouble concluding that the only appropriate remedy in this case is the dismissal of all the indictments.

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