It’s not a case that got a lot of press coverage, but in 2008 two Tennessee detectives posed as federal defense attorneys to try to get incriminating information out of one of their suspects. They told the suspect they were his federal public defender.
They even talked him out of cooperating with his own, real lawyer.
Neither of the two detectives faced real sanctions. One still works at the Sheriff’s office.
While this isn’t a common case, it does highlight that police are allowed to lie to you during an investigation. Some may interpret that to mean that they can misrepresent themselves as attorneys, too. They may be shooting themselves in the foot later, but they can do a lot of damage to your case and your life if they do.
When you hire your own attorney, you know exactly who you’re waiting for. It will be a lot harder for anyone to pull this ruse on you. You may even want to ask for the attorney’s bar number and to see their business cards or other proof that they are who they say they are.
While the court of appeals eventually dismissed all indictments against the suspect as a result of this scheme, the court that convicted him was aware of the problem and ruled that the defendant in question had “picked his poison.”
This is also a great case for demonstrating why you never want to participate in a law enforcement interrogation of any kind. If you lawyer up and know who to expect then they can’t ask you any more questions. If they can’t ask questions, they can’t lie to you.
The Supreme Court has upheld the rights of law enforcement to tell all kinds of lies. They are free to weave a web of illusion by telling you that they found your fingerprints when they didn’t, that a confederate has confessed when they haven’t, that they have your DNA when they don’t, and that confessing is in your best interests when it isn’t.
While certain types of confessions can be rendered “involuntary” when elicited with certain lies, the police can still entice you to do a lot of damage to your own case, giving up bits of information they can corroborate with other evidence.
Hire an attorney, know who that attorney is, and call the attorney instantly…especially if you’re engaged in the kinds of activities that might put you on the wrong side of the law.
5 Mistakes to Avoid When You’re Under Investigation
7 Signs You’re Under Federal Criminal Investigation
Taking the Stand: What to Expect if You Testify in Your Criminal Case