Deception in the Investigative, Interrogative, and Testimonial Processes

Topics: Police, Supreme Court of the United States, Law Pages: 5 (1621 words) Published: April 7, 2010
Deception in the Investigative, Interrogative, and Testimonial Processes Lisa Moore
University of Phoenix
Ethics in Justice and Security
CJA 530
March 23, 2010
Roger Long J.D.

Deception in the Investigative, Interrogative, and Testimonial Processes
The term deception means the deliberate act of misleading an individual some may refer to deception as “little white lies.” Deception has long been used in the criminal justice area by officers in the detecting process of criminal cases, and is one of the most commonly used tools in the investigative process. Investigators use deception in the detecting process. This involves misleading criminals during the investigative and interrogative stages, to gather enough information about the crime that only the suspect would know to arrest the suspect, and then present the case to the court. There are three stages of deception, the investigation, then interrogation, and finally the testimonial.

“Hard and fast rules limiting police conduct may challenge common sense, while the absence of such rules may invite arbitrary and abusive conduct.  This paper discusses one of the most troubling and difficult questions pertaining to the ideal of legality: To what extent, if at all, is it proper for law enforcement officials to employ trickery and deceit as part of their law enforcement practices” (White, 1979)? “Whatever the answer to that question if, indeed, an answer be formulated it has to be measured against a hard reality of the criminal justice system.  That reality is: Deception is considered by police--and courts as well--to be as natural to detecting as pouncing is to a cat” (Skolnick, 1975).

Deception is generally allowed during the investigative stage of detection, as it is to the courts but is less tolerated during interrogation and rarely suitable or accepted during court proceedings. “Here, police are permitted by the courts to engage in trickery and deception and are trained to do so by the police organization. The line between acceptable and unacceptable deception is the line between so-called entrapment and acceptable police conduct” (Chevigny, 1969).

“Within an adversary system of criminal justice, governed by due process rules for obtaining evidence, officers will deceive suspect to get the truth. The contradiction may be surprising, but it may be inevitable in an adversary system of justice where police perceive procedural due process norms and legal requirements as inconsistent obstacles to truth for the commission of crime” (Skolnick, 1982).   

Deceptive interrogation strategies present intriguing ethical questions. While brutal or otherwise physically coercive means are no longer commonly used by police officers to obtain confessions, officers regularly use deception as an interrogation strategy. During interrogations officers will use psychological persuasion and manipulation. Officers are authorized to trick and lie to get a so called voluntary confession. The use of deception in interrogation is a simple “routine in almost every law enforcement agency and it remains routine because it is effective: When the suspect is talking with police, deception frequently breaks the suspect down and elicits confession” (Obenberger, 1998).

“Although these tactics have been criticized by the United States Supreme Court (Miranda v. Arizona) nevertheless the Supreme Court has never squarely banned the practice, and it sometimes justifies deceptive practices under the name strategic deception. Miranda forbids coercion in questioning a suspect it does not bar” (Obenberger, 1998) mere strategic deception by taking advantage of a suspect's misplaced trust in one he supposes to be a fellow inmate.

To better understand how deception works here is an example: “A burglary is being investigated at a local store. During an interview of the suspect, he is told that there is a video recording of him inside of the store taking a car stereo and shoving it into his pants. The...

References: Chevigny, Paul (1969) “Police Power” New York: Pantheon p. 139 Retrieved March 21, 2010
 Mike (2008) “Simply A Night Owl” Retrieved March 21, 2010 from
Obenberger, J.D. (1998) “Police Deception” The Law and the Skin Trade in the Windy City Retrieved March 21, 2010 from
Obenberger, J.D. (2008) Deception in the Investigation of Crime- Deception Retrieved March 21, 201
Skolnick, Jerome (1975) “Justice without Trial” 2nd ed. New York: Wiley & Sons, p.177 Retrieved March 21, 2010
Skolnick, J. (1982, Summer/Fall) “Deception by Police” Criminal Justice Ethics, Vol. 1 (No. 2) Retrieved March 21, 2010 from
White, Welsh S. (1979) “Police Trickery in Inducing Confessions,” U. Pa. L. Rev. 127 (1979): 581-629; Retrieved March 21, 2010
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