We see police lying to suspects on TV all the time to get them to confess to a crime. However, many people don’t realize that in “real life,” law enforcement officers can indeed lie when questioning suspects. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld that right.
Officers may tell someone a witness spotted them at the scene of a crime, that they found a weapon and are testing it for DNA or that a suspected accomplice turned on them and is cooperating with authorities. They typically do this to get someone (an adult or minor) to admit to committing a crime. However, in Illinois, the law puts limits on this.
At the beginning of 2022, Illinois became the first state to prohibit law enforcement officers from using “deceptive tactics” when they’re interrogating minors (those under 18). The legislation had broad, bipartisan support from Illinois lawmakers and even from law enforcement organizations and prosecutors.
Why are “false confessions” more likely for minors?
One of the dangers of police being able to lie to minors is that they’re more likely than adults to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. That’s partly because young people’s brains are still developing throughout their teens, psychologists say.
Something called “temporal discounting” is more common in juveniles than in adults. That involves seeking short-term rewards without thinking through the long-term consequences.
They’re also less adept at handling stress than the average adult. That means if a police officer tells them their best friend snitched on them and is fully cooperating, they may feel like they may as well confess – especially if they’re told they will suffer little or no punishment if they do or that they can go home.
While Illinois has prohibited deceptive tactics with minors, young people can still easily be intimidated and persuaded to act against their own interests by those in authority. If your child has been arrested, it’s crucial that you seek legal guidance for them as soon as possible to help protect their rights.