You may assume that if you’re being interrogated by a police officer about suspected criminal activity, they have to tell you the truth. That’s not the case. In all 50 states, it’s legal for law enforcement officers to lie to suspects.
They often do this to elicit confessions or get information they wouldn’t otherwise get. They may tell a suspect they have found an item that belongs to them at a crime scene. They may tell someone that their friends have named them as the one who actually committed a crime, while they were innocent bystanders. They can tell suspects that if they just confess, they can go home, and they’ll probably face a reduced charge.
These tactics often work on adults. They’re even more successful with juveniles. That’s why many mental health and criminal justice professionals argue that this tactic shouldn’t be allowed with juveniles. However, currently, only a few states prohibit lying to juvenile suspects – and Pennsylvania isn’t one of them.
Juveniles are more likely to make false confessions
Not only are juveniles more likely to confess to crimes they’ve committed because of police deception than adults, but they’re also more likely to make “false confessions” to crimes they didn’t commit.
Mental health professionals point to several reasons for this. A young person’s brain is still developing throughout their teen years. They’re also typically not as good at dealing with stress as adults. Another reason is “temporal discounting.” Temporal discounting involves being more concerned with short-term rewards than long-term consequences. That promise that they can go home if they just confess outweighs the consideration that it could lead to serious legal consequences.
Make sure your child knows they’re rights
While your child might be questioned without a parent or attorney present, they don’t have to talk. They can invoke their right to remain silent and to call a parent, attorney, or another adult. That’s why it’s important that your child know what to do should they be detained by police for any reason.
If your child has been arrested, it’s important to get legal guidance for them as soon as possible. This will help them protect their rights and potentially minimize any damage they may have done to their own case when they were alone with the police.