When they are investigating a potential crime, police are not really interested in being friends, clearing things up or just helping out their suspect.

Their goal in their words and actions, during formal questioning and otherwise, is to get a person whom they think is guilty to make incriminating statements or, better yet, confess to a crime.

Police are also deadly serious about the standard, and constitutionally required, Miranda warning that anything a suspect says to the police will be used against that person to get them convicted of a crime.

Sometimes, what seem like innocent enough statements can get twisted by prosecutors to make them look like a person has admitted guilt.

Police have a lot of freedom to question suspects

If a suspect agrees to talk after the police give her a Miranda warning, then the police have a lot of leeway on how they question suspects.

Physical force is of course not allowed, and police are also generally not allowed to lie about a suspect’s legal rights.

Beyond that, however, police have plenty of room to mislead a suspect or even outright lie to them about facts in the case. Police and prosecutors have, for example, secured convictions after telling a suspect that they had evidence which they really did not have.

Unfortunately, the attitude of the general public is that police have to lie in order to get to the truth. Instead, police who lie and exert psychological pressure on people can get a false confession and wind up sending a person to prison for something they did not do.

It does not work both ways, though

Memphis residents should resist the urge to fight fire with fire by lying right back to the police. At best, if the police discover deception, they and prosecutors will use it as proof that the suspect was trying to hide something.

At worst, a person who lies to law enforcement could face prosecution for additional criminal charges, since Tennessee law makes it illegal to lie to law enforcement.

It is usually better to say nothing at all

Those who are subject to police questioning should strongly consider using their Fifth Amendment rights not to answer questions at all. They also have the right to speak with an attorney before answering any further questions.

If the police violate these rights once a person decides to use them, then that violation may be an important part of a person’s criminal defense strategy.