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Police lying to juveniles: Facts parents should know

On Behalf of | Oct 4, 2022 | Criminal Justice System

It is perfectly legal for police to lie to you to get a confession. This is true in 48 states, including Tennessee. According to a 1969 Supreme Court ruling, the police may use false statements or deceptive means to gain a confession.

As a parent, understanding the facts about these coercive tactics can help you prepare your child if he or she faces police questioning.

What is the impact of police lying to juvenile suspects?

To compel a confession or encourage a suspect to implicate others, police often lie about DNA, fingerprints, confessions of co-defendants and other evidence. They may also fabricate stories about what will happen if the suspect does not confess.

Such lies can easily lead to false confessions, and young people are much more likely to give false confessions than adults. In fact, Psychology Today reports on an experiment in which juveniles were 27% more likely to falsely confess. This number rose to approximately 60% when the children saw fake evidence of their guilt. According to the Innocence Project, among its exonerees, nearly 35% of those with childhood convictions falsely confessed, compared to only 10% of convicted adults.

Why are juveniles so vulnerable to police deception?

Children and teens are more likely to confess to a crime they did not commit because their brains have not finished developing. This means that, when placed under pressure, your child may not yet have the ability to consider long-term consequences and make sound judgments. Further, children often feel they must comply with authority figures.

Though many states are working to change deceptive police practices, for now, law enforcement can lie to your child in Tennessee. Helping your child understand the types of deceptions the police might use may prevent a false confession.

State Bar of Georgia
TBA | Tennessee Bar Association
CBA | Chattanooga Bar Association

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