Generally, during an investigation, police are allowed to use deceptive
tactics against suspects. Their methods can include both psychological
and physical deception. However, their behavior can’t be such that
it unduly coercers someone to commit a crime, infringes on a person’s
rights, or forces an individual to confess to doing something they did not do.
Undercover or Entrapment
Physical deceptive techniques could include such things as undercover operations.
For instance, police officers may pose a drug buyer or seller to see if
a person will commit a
drug crime. Although some defendants have challenged the use of such methods and
motioned to have evidence dismissed, courts have found covert investigation
However, these operations can go too far. When an officer’s actions
make a person do something they were not predisposed to do, their deception
could cross the line into entrapment.
Under California law, if a cop harasses, threatens, or pressures someone
to engage in illegal activity, their conduct could be challenged in court.
When evaluating this argument, the court will measure the defendant’s
actions against what a reasonable, law-abiding citizen would do. If it
finds that, under similar circumstances, such a person would have resisted
the opportunity to commit a crime, the entrapment defense will not hold up.
Violating a Defendant’s Rights
The U.S. Constitution provides numerous protections for citizens. When
investigating a crime, law enforcement’s conduct must not infringe
upon these rights. If it does, the evidence obtained could be thrown out
at court, and the prosecutor’s arguments could be weakened.
Some form of deception might occur during the evidence-gathering stage
of the investigation. The police may have a person of interest and need
to search the individual’s property for items that demonstrate they
committed the alleged offense.
Fourth Amendment Rights
The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures,
which means, typically, cops need a warrant to search property. However,
if the suspect voluntarily gives consent for officers to enter their home
or vehicle, the search may be deemed lawful. Knowing this, officers might
use deceit when seeking to gain permission to look through a person’s
home or vehicle; often, phrasing their request as a command as opposed
to a question.
Officers have also used deception to get a suspect to open a door so they
could present a warrant and execute a search. For instance, in
United States v. Contreras-Ceballos, Alaska State Troopers said they were a delivery company so the occupant
of a home would answer. When she did, they presented the court order and
conducted their search. The defendant argued that the evidence gathered
should have been suppressed because it went against the federal “knock-and-announce”
statute. However, the court stated that the officers’ deception
was not a violation because they only said they were a delivery company
to get the door open. After that, they said who they were and their purpose
for being there.
However, it is unlawful for police to say they have a warrant when they
don’t or to lie about what they are looking for.
Fifth Amendment Rights
Under the Fifth Amendment, people are protected from providing self-incriminating
statements to police. Before commencing an interrogation, law enforcement
must inform the individual in custody of their rights. If the person chooses
to remain silent, they do not have to answer officers’ questions,
and the cops can’t force them to.
However, if the individual gives up their right, any answers they give
can be used against them in court. During the interrogation, officers
can use psychological tactics to get a person to admit they are guilty
of an alleged offense. This could include telling the suspect they found
their fingerprints at the crime scene or they’ve just watched a
surveillance video of the crime that shows the suspect engaged in illegal activity.
Contact Appel & Morse Today for a Free Consultation
Together, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience, and we have tackled
cases of varying complexity. If you were charged with an offense, speak
with us today. We will review your case to determine if law enforcement’s
conduct went too far and violated your rights. Our priority is to build
an effective defense and challenge the evidence against you.
For a team committed to working toward a favorable outcome on your behalf,
call us at (805) 467-6060 or
contact us online.