An interrogation is the direct questioning of a person under conditions which are partly or fully controlled by the questioner. A police interrogation involves persuasion, influence, and trickery with the goal being to obtain a confession or at least an admission of anything that would implicate the suspect in criminal behavior.
An interrogation can occur at the police station, in jail or at the scene of a crime. There are two types of police interrogations:
- Custodial interrogation – A custodial interrogation is an interrogation of a person in custody who is reasonably suspected of being directly involved in or responsible for an offense. The person being interrogated is not free to leave police custody. Once a person is in police custody, the suspect must be read his Miranda rights if the police want to question him and to use the answers as evidence at trial.
- Non custodial interrogation (also called an interview) – A non custodial interrogation is the gathering of information by police from a person that is not yet officially considered a suspect for the offense being investigated. An interviewee is not in police custody and is free to leave at any time. A non custodial interview does not require the police to read the suspect his Miranda rights in order to use statements as evidence at trial.
A non custodial interrogation can be ended by leaving. If the police do not allow the person to leave, then the interrogation has changed from a non custodial interrogation to a custodial interrogation. A custodial police interrogation may be stopped by:
- A clear request for an attorney
- A clear request to remain silent
But after either request, if the suspect initiates conversation, then any statements made may be used against the suspect as evidence at trial.
Information that is voluntarily disclosed to the police is generally admissible at trial. To elicit voluntary statements, the police may:
- Use psychological ploys like lying or selectively revealing important facts
- Use verbal trickery
- Use other nonviolent and non-coercive deception
In trying to elicit information from a suspect, the police are not allowed to:
- Use physical force such as torture
- Mental coercion such as mental torture, brainwashing, or drugging
- Threats or insults
- Exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment
- Use inducements, such as the promise of bail or of non-prosecution
Evidence obtained directly as a result of an illegal interrogation cannot be used in court as evidence against a defendant. In addition, evidence that would not have been obtained but for the illegal interrogation may also be inadmissible at trial.
If you are accused of a crime or have been interrogated, you should speak to a criminal lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses, and the complicated legal system.