What to Do if You Are Interrogated by Police

What to do if you are interrogated by police in South Carolina

What to do if police interrogate you. Ask any good criminal defense attorney and their first response will be, never agree to being interrogated by police. But if you do find yourself in this position, I’ll tell you what you need to do to preserve your rights.

Hi, my name is Dale Savage and I’m a criminal defense attorney here in Charleston, SC. Today we’re talking about police interrogations, the tactics that police are trained to use when conducting them, and what you can do if you find yourself in an interrogation room.

What is an interrogation?

So, what is an interrogation?  An interrogation is when police, typically an investigator, believes you are guilty of a crime and uses an accusatory process in order to get you to make an admission, or better yet, confess to a crime so it can be used against you in court.

Police are trained in a number of ways to interrogate a suspect.  One common interrogation technique they use is called the “Reid technique.”  It consists of three elements with the last one having nine components.  It’s those nine components that I am going to focus on today and talk about why you should never subject yourself to police interrogation and more importantly, what you can do if you are in this position.

How to handle an interrogation

Let’s do this because it’s so important. I’m going to tell you what you need to do if you are interrogated by police and then we’ll talk about police tactics.  The most important thing you can do in an interrogation is tell police “I want a lawyer.”  Clear and unequivocal. It can’t be “do I need a lawyer,” “I think I’d like a lawyer” Should I get a lawyer.  Our courts have said those terms are too ambiguous to invoke your 6th Amendment rights to a lawyer. It must be I WANT A LAWYER. Saying those words now preserves your constitutional right to an attorney and police must stop the interrogation immediately.  These four words can change the entire interrogation in a heartbeat.

So let’s get back to the interrogation nine step process and talk about the tactics police are trained to use against you.

Step 1: Confrontation

The first step in a Reid interrogation is Confrontation. Police will start off with some facts of the case and inform the suspect of the evidence against them all the while implying that they did it.

It may go something like – “I have in this file the results of our investigation. These results clearly indicate that you are the person who committed this act.”  The confrontation step isn’t a question-and-answer format, but rather a position of certainty by police regarding a suspect’s guilt and the futility in maintaining your innocence. That’s the tactic.

It will then transition into something like – “I want to sit down and spend some time with you to see if we can get this thing straightened out. Here is what I think that we are looking at…”

Step 2: Theme Development

Now they move on to step two which is called theme development.  Theme development is when the interrogator proposes to the suspect reasons and motives that will serve to justify or excuse the suspect’s criminal behavior.  Police do this by attempting to place the blame for what the suspect did on some other person or set of circumstances other than the suspect himself. The them e is developed as to why the suspect committed the act.

Step 3: Handling objections

Step 3 deals with how police Handle denials.  Handling denials is when police will interrupt all denials that are made.  They do this by telling you that it will be your turn to talk in a minute, right now you just need to listen.  They don’t want you to say, “I didn’t do it.”

Step 4: Overcoming objections

Step 4 is overcoming objections.  An objection is a statement or reason made by a suspect to prove the accusation is false.

  • It might go something like this:
  • “I would never do that to someone.” or
  • “I don’t need any money, I’ve got plenty of money in the bank.”

Police are trained to use these objections against you.  Take the “I don’t need any money” statement. Police can turn that around on you and say “I hope that’s true, that tells me this was a spur of the moment thing and you just saw an opportunity in that moment to take the cash. You didn’t know it wasn’t abandoned. It’s not like you planned it.” This is an attempt to minimize a person’s actions, again a tactic to get the suspect to agree with police and confess to a crime.

Step 5: Retention of suspects attention

Step 5 is retention of a suspect’s attention.  At this point in the interrogation a person may be looking for a way to escape the situation or become defensive with the interrogation.  So, following their training, police will now pretend to be your ally, they can appear more sincere and understanding of you, this way they keep the interrogation going.

Step 6: Handling a suspects passive mood

Step 6 is called handling a suspects passive mood. This is when a suspect is becoming less tense, is listening to the theme put forward by police. If a person’s body language indicates surrender, such as head in hands, elbows on knees, the interrogator will seize on this to lead the suspect into a confession. They will now want a suspect to choose a reason why they committed the act. Police will again state their theme (how they believe the crime happened).

Step 7: Alternative questions

Step 7 is presenting alternative questions. This is when the interrogator offers two incriminating motives, sometimes beginning with you had a good reason, it was a crime of passion but there was a bad result.  This of course is meaningless; they are simply trying to make you confess to the crime and provide details of how you did it.

Step 8: Confession

Step 8 is having the suspect give details of the act.  Once the suspect has chosen an alternative theme, the confession has begun.  Now police want you to do all the talking and give details whether on what you did, whether they are true or not.

Step 9: Get confession into Court

The final stage is all about getting a confession that will be admitted as evidence in trial.  Police may try to get you to write out a confession in your own handwriting or sign one that is written out for you.  You will be given a chance to make any corrections and initial those corrections.  All this is to tell the court that your confession was voluntarily given.

False Confessions

So, what’s the problem with this?  In two words – false confessions. Some people may be watching this and say that’s complete rubbish, no one would ever admit to a crime they did not do.  Sadly, there have been hundreds of documented convictions overturned where people have made false confessions to crimes they never committed.

Charleston, SC Criminal Defense Attorney

I hope this video was helpful and thanks for watching.

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