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March 22, 2011

Some Police Tactics Cross the Line Like Pretending to be a Defendant’s Lawyer

It is not uncommon for me to hear stories from clients of police officers being less than truthful to them about potential consequences for them failing to provide Police with incriminating information or failing to assist them in prosecuting other criminal actors.
Most things officers say does not surprise me as police officers are not required to tell the complete truth to those they detain. They often simply just paint the worst case scenario and may even stretch that a little. This is not really unexpected as the law allows this and they would likely never get a confession out of anyone if they truly explained to them all the reasons a confession may not be a good idea.
However a recent Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals decision demonstrated one line that is clearly not safe to cross. In State v. Dawson, the court reviewed a case wherein police detectives sent letters to an inmate wherein the detectives pretended to be the defendant’s lawyer. In such case, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals found the actions of law enforcement were egregious and reversed the convictions in such case as the court found such actions to violate state and federal constitutional rights to counsel.