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Are police allowed to lie in a criminal investigation?

As a general rule, police are allowed to lie during a criminal investigation - but you are not.

If a police officer lies to a person during questioning, interrogation, etc., those false statements are often considered by the courts to be part of a legitimate investigations technique. If an ordinary person lies to a police officer, that person may face criminal prosecution can result in jail time and other serious consequences.

If police want to question you as part of a criminal investigation, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal lawyer first. Whether you are a "suspect" or a "witness," you have important rights that should be protected. Contact us today to see how Utah criminal defense attorney Stephen Howard can help you.

Why would police lie to me?

Court opinions that have approved deceptive practices by police appear to be based at least in part on the assumption that police are motivated by the noble pursuit of truth and the correct identification of individuals guilty of committing crimes. While an officer's motives may be good, the results of an interrogation based on false information may not always be reliable.

As ordinary citizens responding to a police officer's questions, many people are likely to assume that the officer is telling the truth. We generally trust police officers to "protect and serve" the people. When we give police officers this position of trust, we assume that they will act with integrity. And for most of us, acting with integrity includes telling the truth. A police officer who lies during an investigation presents a conflict between our expectations and reality.

This conflict between expectations and reality creates an uneven playing field - where the person being questioned may assume that the police officer is telling the truth. Many people feel a sense of obligation to answer questions when confronted by a police officer. But this conflict between expectations and reality can be confusing, and may result in even an innocent person making incriminating statements.

While the Fifth Amendment provides a privilege against self-incrimination (the right to remain silent), it is common that a suspect or a witness will waive that right and agree to answer police questions. Perhaps the most important thing that a person can do when asked to submit to questioning by police is to ask first to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

What can happen if I lie to police?

The consequences of lying to police can include serious criminal charges that can be filed independently of anything that the police may have been already investigating. In some cases, a person who is actually innocent of the original underlying charge may be prosecuted and convicted on new criminal charges based on false statements made to police or investigators.

Potential criminal charges that can be filed based on lying to police can include making a false police report, giving a false name, and obstruction of justice. In some cases, the level of the charge will be determined by the level of the crime that was originally being investigated by police. The consequences can be serious, including substantial prison or jail time and a potential felony conviction.

Am I required to answer any questions from a police officer?

Under Utah Code section 76-8-301.5, a police officer can demand that a person otherwise lawfully stopped by the officer disclose the person's name. Under this section of the Utah Code, police cannot require the person do disclose or produce any other information, such as showing a driver license or other identification. (However, please note that other statutes can require a driver to present a valid driver license to a police officer involved in a traffic stop.) The statute further does not require a person to answer any questions relating to other potential criminal activity.

Beyond giving a police officer your true name, you are not required to answer other questions. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I Section 12 of the Utah State Constitution both guarantee the privilege against self-incrimination and the right not to be compelled to give evidence against oneself. If you are confronted by a police officer who wants to question you in connection with a criminal investigation, you should first request the opportunity to speak with a criminal defense attorney.

Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney in Utah

Utah Criminal Defense LawyerWhether you believe you are innocent or guilty, whether you are a suspect or merely a witness, you have important constitutional rights that you should understand before talking to a police officer. Contact us today to see how the right criminal defense attorney can help you.


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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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