Common Interrogation Lines
It’s unlawful for the police to beat you into confessing;1 however, it’s perfectly legal for them to sucker you into it. That’s why interrogation doesn’t usually involve bright lights and rubber hoses—more often than not, the officer sounds sympathetic or at least business-like. And that can leave you even more vulnerable to manipulation, because when you feel relieved that the officer isn’t being really scary, you tend to let your guard down. Besides, it’s truly difficult to overcome the natural urge to talk one’s way out of trouble. That’s why it makes so much sense to train yourself to say I’m going to remain silent. I would like to see a lawyer, under any circumstances. It’s got to become a reflex you can rely on, the same way you know that you’d automatically start swimming if you fell into deep water, even if you were scared and disoriented.
Common Interrogation Lines
You’re not a suspect. We’re simply investigating here. Just help us understand what happened and then you can go.
If you answer questions, you’re likely to become a suspect, if you aren’t really one already.
What are you afraid of? If you haven’t done anything wrong, then you shouldn’t have any problem answering my questions.2
What you should be afraid of is being lured into answering questions. You don’t have anything to prove. Remember, in court you’re “innocent until proven guilty”—and the thing most likely to prove guilt is an unplanned statement made when you’re arrested. If the police are thinking of arresting you, answering their questions will make them more determined to do it, not less so.
Look, if you don’t answer my questions, I won’t have any choice but to take you to jail. This is your chance to tell your side of the story.
This is the commonest trick of all! The police consistently pretend that they’re considering letting you go, when they’ve already made up their minds to take you to jail. Remember, the time to tell your side of the story is when you’re in court and have your lawyer helping you—not when you’re alone with a cop who’s busy building a case against you. See how a real police inspector uses this technique during an actual interrogation, in Use a Pie, Go to Jail.
Your friends have all cooperated and we let them go home. You’re the only one left. Do you want to stay in jail?
The police can lie about where your friends are and what they’ve said. Take a look at Rat Jacket. Don’t trust information given to you by the cops. Make sure to verify your facts through a lawyer or your friends and family.
I’m tired of screwing around. If you don’t answer my questions, you’re going to be charged with obstruction.
Well, you know this is garbage, because the Constitution guarantees you the right to remain silent—so refusing to answer questions can’t be against the law. But some cops will still threaten you with “resisting an officer” or “obstruction of justice,” just to see whether you’ll fall for it.
Come on, I’m not asking you to sign anything. We’re just talking. And you can stop any time you want to.
Remember, anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. You don’t have to sign anything to make it a real confession—the police will just quote you (and they may be taping you, too). The time to stop is before you ever begin—even a little time spent answering questions can completely screw up your case.
Look, we’ve got all the evidence we need to convict you, so you might as well confess.
Yeah, right. If the police really had all the evidence they needed, they wouldn’t waste time talking to you. The only reason they’re questioning you is because they don’t have enough proof, and they’re hoping you’ll be kind enough to give it to them.
Basically, the case against you is really strong. It’s not a question of whether you’re going to jail—it’s a question of what you’re to jail for. This is your last chance to get the right information to the DA before he decides on the charges.
This is not the time to give more information to the DA (the prosecutor). You can do that later, once you’ve got a lawyer helping you. After all, the DA can change the charges any time up to trial, and usually does—reducing or dismissing them as part of a plea bargain. But your lawyer can get you a better deal if you don’t give away all your bargaining power by confessing to the arresting officers.
You know, there’s only one person who can help you right now, and that’s you. I can listen, but you’ve got to do the talking. This thing is going to eat at you; it’s going to weigh you down for the rest of your life, if you don’t get it off your conscience. Things look pretty bad right now, and they are. But this is where you have to start from. You’ve got to get this stuff out now, so you can move forward. If you could talk to the victim right now, what would you want to say to him?
Confession may be good for the soul, but not when it’s to the police. Talk about your feelings with a spiritual advisor such as a minister, priest, rabbi or imam, or with a licensed counselor such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker (but not a probation officer). They have the professional training to help you, and more important, they’re prohibited by law from testifying about what you confide to them. Cops, on the other hand, will gladly testify about what you’ve “gotten off your chest.”
You got a choice here. Either you answer my questions, or you’re going to jail. And I’d hate to see a nice white boy like you get punked by a bunch of nigs.
– or –
You can talk to me now, or you can go to jail. And let me tell you something, there’s women in that jail who haven’t been outside in months, women who haven’t been with a man for a real long time. How’d you like to be raped by a bunch of lesbians?
Cops use this kind of race-baiting and queer-bashing pretty frequently to scare white people who haven’t been to jail before. And the cops aren’t particularly subtle about it. Don’t let some bigot with a badge put his trash into your head.
TV and movies make rape-in-jail scenarios look more frequent than they really are. Most people in jail are there for drug or property crimes, not crimes of violence (much less sexual violence). If you behave reasonably, other prisoners really aren’t likely to give you a hard time. See Going to Jail for the First Time.