The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that police officers’ duty to uncover criminal behavior can include lying to those being questioned. This is a primary reason that anyone speaking to Virginia police about potential criminal activity should say as little as possible. The problem is that even though police can lie to anyone during an investigation, those who answer falsely on purpose can be charged with giving false information.
Police officers can indeed “trick” suspects into providing information that is better left unsaid by using falsehoods in questioning. This is why many criminal defense professionals say it is best to refrain from answering. Even if the officers do not have reasonable suspicion, they can still ask questions of those who continue to answer. Asking if you are a suspect does not impede their power to continue false statements.
Understanding reasonable suspicion
Police must have probable cause to conduct an arrest, but they can also question anyone if they have “reasonable suspicion” that a crime has been committed. Everyone is a suspect until the true culprits can be identified. Those being questioned are not official defendants until they are arrested, so their right to remain silent does not actually begin until being arrested.
It is easy to incriminate yourself when being questioned, and police know this through training. When they ask for your name, you must answer honestly by law. Then, you might become a suspect, so your criminal defense strategy begins at this point.
Always remember that when police say, “Anything you say can and will be used against you,” they mean it. Always contact a Virginia criminal defense attorney immediately after invoking the Fifth Amendment.