Are you a cop?

Lola batted her eyelashes and smiled at the man. “How about a date?”

He shrugged. “Maybe. How much?”

After a brief hesitation, she countered with a question of her own. “You a cop?”

“Are you kidding? No way. I hate pigs.”

“Okay. You give me a hundred bucks and I’ll rock your world.”

The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of handcuffs. “Guess my world’s gonna stay steady tonight. Hands behind your back.”

“Hey! You lied! You can’t do that!”

“Already did. Now, you want me to recite your rights or you wanna do it for me?”

Is Lola right? Did Officer Smith entrap her when he lied about his identity?

Nope.

The police are allowed to lie. They do it all the time when working undercover or performing sting operations. I don’t know when or how the rumor started that they have to tell the truth when they’re asked whether they’re cops, but it’s entirely false. Police can lie about other things too. It would frequently be hard for them to do their jobs if they had to be honest all the time.

Lying does not constitute entrapment. In order for someone to successfully use the entrapment defense, she must prove that police enticed her to perform an illegal act she wasn’t otherwise inclined to do. If that undercover cop offered people a million bucks to sleep with him, a lot of people might be tempted even though they’d never previously¬†considered prostitution. In Lola’s case, however, it’s only a hundred dollars. Plus she initiated the exchange, which is pretty good evidence that she was predisposed.

There are some limits to what police can lie about. If a suspect invokes her Miranda rights and asks to speak to a lawyer, the cops can’t grab a random colleague in a suit, put him in the interrogation room, and have him tell the suspect he’s an attorney.

One frequent lie used to good effect by police happens when there are two or more suspects. Each is questioned separately, and each is (falsely) told that his colleague had confessed and ratted him out. Suspects under those circumstances often confess in a vain attempt to save themselves.

An urban legend says that police have pretended that a Xerox machine is a lie detector, as shown in this scene from The Wire. I don’t know if that’s ever really happened, but police often do get creative.

 

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