Understanding Police Interrogation in Criminal Investigations

When called into police headquarters for questioning, it is almost impossible to avoid feeling nervous, self-conscious and fearful. The police know this and use it to their advantage. When they question people about a crime, they use all “legal means” to illicit information, including your discomfort when surrounded by dozens of police and placed in an isolated, uncomfortable room. Here are some guidelines for managing an interrogation.

Prepare for the Interrogation

Chair and light in interrogation facility

Arrests are generally a surprise. Never answer questions when you are arrested. Always speak to your lawyer first. “Interviews” (more appropriately “Interrogations”) are usually scheduled. This gives you a substantial advantage in that you can prepare for your interrogation; here are some suggestions:

  • Bring your lawyer with you: Never speak to police (or anyone) about your case without consulting with your lawyer. Your lawyer should be with you even though you know you did not break any laws. It’s good to have an objective person listening and advising you. It’s best if that person is a well trained and experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney.
  • Present yourself in the best light by taking a shower, wearing clean, tidy clothing and being alert.
  • Sobriety: Do not under any circumstances appear for an interrogation drunk or under the influence of any drugs. Not only does this flaunt the law, but it puts you in a disadvantaged position. Your mind is not clear when drunk or high which makes you vulnerable to being misled and confused.
  • Appropriately respectful deportment: This includes shaking hands, supplying your full name when asked, sitting attentively, appearing interested and engaged in the process. Refusing to meet the eye of your questioner, slumping in your chair, and appearing in the same clothes you have had on for three days will not help you present yourself as a respectable citizen appearing to assist the police with your knowledge.
  • Review: Review the facts about the incident in your mind in as much detail as possible. Review these facts with your attorney as much as possible. Have at your fingertips exactly where you were, what you were doing, and who was with you. Try to recall details, so you can say you were under the street lamp on your side of the street talking to a friend rather than “outside” or “I don’t know.” Before you arrived, the police have done a large amount of investigation and almost certainly know more about the incident than you. Don’t try to outsmart them with a story that they know is not true.
  • Bring a jacket no matter what time of year it is. You are often left in an interview room for some time before being questioned. Some times the police are busy, but this is also a technique used to increase your nervousness. Often such rooms are kept very cold. You will be more comfortable with a jacket and feel more in command of yourself if you are not cold. If the room is not cold, you can rest your head on your jacket while you wait; this keeps you from exhibiting nervousness such as walking around the room, tapping on the table etc.
  • Simple Techniques in Interrogation Questions

    Open-Ended Questions

    The police learn in their training that open-ended questions elicit the most information. These are questions that encourage you to talk or tell a story as opposed to questions that have a quick, short answer. An example is: “what time did you leave home last night?” as opposed to “tell me about last night.”

    Dealing with open questions takes patience and clear thinking. Here are some tips you can use:

    • Ask a specific question in reply. For example, when asked, “tell me about last night,” reply, “when last night?” Ask this with respect and without aggression or attitude.
    • Be brief: List your activities without elaboration such as: I left my house at about 8:00, got something to eat, and came back home.” Tell the truth, but don’t offer details until they ask you specific questions.
    • Be general: but honest. Say “I was in and out all evening.” This may cause your questioner to ask a more specific question.
    • Take your time: Do not ever rush to answer a question or react to a comment. Teach yourself to take three deep breaths or count to five before every reply. Quick replies are unlikely to be your friend.

    Police Can Mislead You During Questioning

    Listen when the police talk to you. They may intentionally make inaccurate or incorrect statements to get you to react. They may show you photographs of the crime scene. Teach yourself not to respond to any stories, conjectures or accusations they make. Restrict yourself to answering direct questions only even if they yell at you.

    Take Charge of You Interrogation

    Working with your criminal lawyer and these tips will help you manage an upcoming interrogation rather than be bullied by it. The situation can only improve if you are prepared to take charge of the police interrogation.

    Your Behavior in the Interrogation Room

    The Police record virtually all interrogations; this has advantages for you and for them. The police cannot accuse you of saying something that the video did not record and they cannot act counter to the polices of the department and law.

    The camera records not just your answers but your behavior. It is generally recording any time you are in the interrogation room even if you are alone. Try to exert yourself to behave calmly. Put your head down on your arms or jacket and consider what is going to happen. Resist walking around the room, tapping on the table, moving around much at all; all of these behaviors make you look nervous and even guilty.

    You do not have to speak with police. However, if you do not fully understand your rights, you can find yourself in a difficult position. Without proper preparation and a plan made with you lawyer, you will not improve your situation by speaking to police. Do police have to read you your rights?

    Help from Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorney

    In no way should you use this as a guide to prepare for going into an interrogation without meeting with you lawyer. The decision to speak with law enforcement is a strategic decision, and should not be passed upon lightly. Aside from conducting yourself effectively during interrogation, timing is a very important factor to consider. How you dress and what you bring with you may be important to decide on. So, if you have been contacted by police, then call a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney to prepare you and advise you.

    Link to profile of Attorney Cody Cofer