Speaking to Police & Entrapment: Are The Police Allowed to Lie To Someone?

Interviewer: If someone were to get a call or knock at the door from a police officer or detective, are they obligated to meet or talk to them?

Zach Peagler: No, they’re not. As a citizen of the United States, you’ve got an absolute right to remain silent if you’re the target of any investigation.

I think the prudent thing to do, if you realize you’re the target of an investigation, is you need to talk to a lawyer immediately, because making that decision about whether you’re going to try to cooperate or not can be an extremely important decision, and most of the time it’s time-sensitive. You’ve got really one good chance to make the right decision about that, and it can greatly affect your case down the road.

Interviewer: When police are asking you questions, are they allowed to lie to someone?

Zach Peagler: Yes, they are.

Interviewer: They are?

Zach Peagler: Yes, and they often do. Some people would call it good police work, but there’s no law against them trying to use hypothetical scenarios to get you to admit to certain things. There are rules against entrapment, so they can’t try to get you to go do something illegal, and then arrest you for it. But a lot of times, when there are multiple witnesses involved, we’ll see police interviews where they’re alluding to the fact to the other people that somebody else has already told us you did this, or telling them that they know more than they really do in order to get someone to admit to something.

Interviewer: What are the rules of entrapment and how do police usually violate them?

Zach Peagler: We don’t see that very often. I honestly think that that was something that happened more 10 to 20 years ago with law enforcement, but as those cases became more prominent and people were beating charges based on entrapment, I really don’t see that very often anymore. All things being equal, in our jurisdiction of Jefferson County and the surrounding municipalities, by and large we have some really good law enforcement that don’t resort to those kind of tactics. But you’ll see stuff now and it’s questionable as to whether it’s entrapment or not. But there are some popular crimes in our culture that are basically entrapment. You see them on TV on Dateline and that type of thing, where people are acting as if they’re underage children online, and getting people to basically commit crimes with what they think are underage children, even though it may be an undercover police officer.

What Does It Mean to be Indicted?

Interviewer: What does it mean to be indicted?

Zach Peagler: An indictment in Alabama results from a grand jury proceeding. The criminal defendant and the lawyer don’t have an absolute right to be involved in a grand jury proceeding, so at the state court level, the grand jury convenes every so often in Jefferson County and it’s a group of citizens that get notified that they’re going to sit on the grand jury. They come in and the district attorney’s office will go over a large number of cases on each grand jury proceeding, and they’ll present the evidence that they have against a criminal defendant, and the grand jury decides that there’s probable cause to say that that person committed the crime that the district attorney’s office wants to charge them with.

The problem with the grand jury proceeding from our perspective is we’re not there to tell them the reasons why they may not have committed these crimes, so it’s a low threshold for the district attorney’s office to be able to get an indictment. Of course, just because you’re indicted does not mean you’re guilty. That’s the beginning of the process, essentially.

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