Court finds police deception, misinformation OK in interrogation

A Wisconsin man lost his criminal appeal all the way through that state’s Supreme Court recently, with the court holding that a person’s self-incriminating statements are not unlawfully coerced by police “if the pressures exerted … do not exceed the defendant’s ability to resist.”

The court ruled that the defendant was “not particularly vulnerable” and that police officers interrogating him for the sexual offense of a young girl did not step over the line when they wrongfully told him that he could not call any person from jail, implying that he lacked the right to speak with a defense attorney. The officers also implied that they had damning evidence against the man, which they did not, and they further stated that if he confessed and was convicted on a felony charge, it would not adversely impact upon his ability to continue his occupation as a commercial truck driver.

The interrogation was conducted at the police station, after officers asked the man to come in for questioning. Police says that he was not in custody, and they therefore did not read him his Miranda rights. The defendant did not challenge the notion that he was not in custody, but he did argue on appeal that he was lied to and coerced.

In a 7-1 majority ruling, the state Supreme Court held that the defendant had the requisite ability as an adult to resist police overtures, with the court’s opinion stating that, “Using deception in an interrogation is common and generally acceptable.”

The sole dissenting justice disagreed, stating that the police coerced the defendant and that they clearly breached his constitutional rights by misinforming him of his right to speak with an attorney.

Source: State Bar of Wisconsin, “In criminal case, Supreme Court upholds confession despite alleged police coercion,” Joe Forward, Jan. 9, 2013

  • Stories like the above underscore why a person arrested on a criminal charge or asked to voluntarily speak with police officers concerning a criminal matter should immediately invoke his or her constitutional right to remain silent and to speak with a defense attorney. For further information, please visit our Georgia Criminal Defense Overview page.