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Your Guide to Police Interrogation

Posted By: On Behalf of J. Kevin Stockstill, Attorney at Law // On:

Police interrogations have long been a controversial issue. In fact, the first false confession on record dates back to 1666 after the Great Fire of London. Only after a man who confessed to the crime was hanged did investigators discover that the very man that took responsibility for the mass destruction actually had a sound alibi. Over 350 years later, interrogators have changed the way they interrogate, but very possibly not in the way you may have hoped.

These days, interrogators recognize that interrogation is the study of human nature and take advantage of a psychological approach. Now, more than ever, it is important for those interrogated to understand this psychological approach in order to protect themselves, avoid interrogation traps, and ensure their freedom.

  1. Even the interrogation room is against you.
    • This room is designed to make you feel distressed, seating you in an uncomfortable chair, which is placed in an area of exposure meant to make you feel powerless. Here, police can take advantage of the unfamiliarity and isolation that will heighten your "get me out of here" state of mind.

  2. The initial interview.
    • The police start the interrogation with casual conversation, developing a rapport with you in an attempt to create a non-threatening environment and sense of trust. Psychologically, if the suspect engages in harmless conversation with the interrogator, it will become more difficult to stop talking freely when the discussion turns to the crime. It is always a good idea to invoke your rights, requesting a lawyer and remaining silence until counseled. Many suspects, however, fall victim to the sense of trust created with the harmless conversation the interrogator began with and waive their rights, which allow police to conduct a full-scale interrogation without the presence of representation for the suspect.

    • During this interview, the interrogator will ask you specific questions that require different parts of the brain to assess reactions. Here, they learn what outward manifestations of the brain accessing memory or creativity you have normally.

  3. The interrogation begins.
    • Now that the interrogator knows how you normally react when accessing your memory and creativity, they will use this information when asking you questions about the crime. The logic here is that if you are telling the truth, your mannerisms will suggest that you are simply recalling what happened (memory). However, if your mannerisms suggest that you are making up what happened (creativity), then you must be lying.

  4. Evidence is presented and a story is fabricated.
    • The facts of the case will be presented to you and the interrogator and investigator will inform you of the evidence against you, which may or may not be true. Police are allowed to lie to you at this stage due to the belief that you are not capable of a confession if you are not guilty in some way. As your stress level increases at the accusation implied by the evidence presented against you, the investigator may move around the room or continue asking questions that will further heighten your discomfort.

    • Next, the interrogator will create a story that explains why you committed the crime. They may use information from the initial interview where they attempted to get to know you to create this story. Here, the interrogator will speak low and non-threatening in an effort to reinstate your trust.

    • Allowing you to deny your guilt will give you confidence, so the interrogator will interrupt all denials and insist that you just listen to him. If attempts at denial slow down or stop, the interrogator knows that he's found a good story.

    • However, if you use objections (give information as to why you could never commit such a crime), the interrogator will not interrupt in order to collect information to use against you.

  5. The interrogation escalates.
    • At this point, you are expected to be frustrated and vulnerable, completely unsure of yourself. The interrogator will capitalize on this and flip back to pretending to be your ally, regaining trust while still attempting to develop the story.

    • As soon as your body language suggests exhaustion or surrender, the interrogator will begin leading you to a confession. Reactions such as crying will be used as indicators of guilt.

    • The interrogator will now offer two contrasting motives for your involvement in the crime. He will continue building these up until your body language suggests that one of them is true.

  6. The confession.
    • At least two witnesses are necessary for a confession, whether it is written or filmed. Bringing in a third person will further increase stress on you and continue building up your need to escape. It is suspected that you will want to get this over with and leave, so you'll confess to make that happen. This makes you willing, which is necessary for a confession. You will confirm that your confession was voluntary, not coerced, and you will sign the statement in the presence of the witnesses.

Not in the market to be interrogated to confession and charged with a crime? Invoke your rights to remain silent and for legal representation to avoid police using anything you say against you. If you are arrested and facing interrogation, call Kevin Stockstill for reliable criminal representation.

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