Can Police Officers Lie to Get a Suspect to Make a Statement in a New York Robbery Case?

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York robbery case discussing whether the defendant’s statements were admissible at trial. The defendant claimed that statements were not voluntary, as they were only made in response to factually incorrect comments made by the interviewing officers. Specifically, the defendant argued that by telling him that admitting to the crime would be better for him in the long-run, the police officers coerced him into making an admission. Not surprisingly, given the long history of police officers being allowed to lie to suspects, the court disagreed, and affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

The Facts of the Case

The facts of the underlying offense are not laid out in the court’s opinion, as they are not relevant to the question before the court. However, the court explained that the defendant had been arrested on suspicion of robbery. After his arrest, the defendant waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with law enforcement. During the interrogation, officers told the defendant that it would be to his advantage to admit to them what happened. The defendant admitted to his role in the robbery.

In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant raised several arguments. However, he did not argue the issue he later raised on appeal.

The Case Is Affirmed on Appeal

On appeal, the court began by noting that the defendant failed to raise the issue of the alleged involuntariness of his confession at trial. Thus, the court explained that the matter was unpreserved for appellate review. However, the court held that, even if the claim was preserved below, it was without merit.

The court began its analysis by noting that a defendant’s confession, if involuntary, cannot be admitted at trial. To determine whether a confession is involuntary, courts consider whether the defendant’s “will was overborne” by reviewing the totality of the circumstances.

The court disagreed with the defendant that the officer’s comments that it would be in his best interest to admit to his role in the crime rendered his confession involuntary. The court explained that “generalized promises of leniency do not create a substantial risk that a defendant might falsely incriminate himself or herself.” In other words, the court held that police officers or detectives can misrepresent the truth when talking with a suspect to get the suspect to make a statement.

Of course, the more specific the promises of leniency are, the more likely they could induce a suspect to make a statement. However, because the comments made by the officers in this case lacks such specificity, the court found that the defendant’s will was not overborne.

Have You Been Arrested after Making a Statement to Police?

If you have recently been arrested for a serious crime after making a statement to police or detectives, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, our team of skilled defense lawyers represents clients facing all types of serious crimes, including New York robbery crimes, burglary offenses, and other theft crimes. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call 877-377-8666.

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