Week’s End With Bernie Returns! The Former Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto Answers Your Law Enforcement Questions. Today: Can You Lie to A Cop?

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police-officerIf you have a question for the former Multnomah County Sheriff in his new weekly column, please send your questions to Victoria@VictoriaTaft.com and in the subject line put “Week’s End With Bernie.” 

Ly’n and Deny’n to The Police? Sure In Oregon That Works

In my early days as a Trooper with the Oregon State Police I had a very good friend who had resigned from the California Highway Patrol to join OSP.  I would jokingly remind him that after 8 years of service with CHP he finally had the good sense to finally join up with a real full service “State Police” organization. 

The comparison being the Police versus Patrol and the almost singular traffic patrol enforcement mission of the California “Highway Patrol”. Truth be known, the CHP is a great organization and their street work in protecting California citizens was second to none. Regardless I couldn’t resist jabbing my “tail light” chasing friend.
 police cartoon
But no matter how often I thought I was getting the best of him with the cutting edge humor, he would always pull the Ly’n and Deny’n card. He would then hammer me with the truism that at least working with the CHP the crooks caught trying to peddle a lie to the police were subject to being arrested for same.
 
That would shut me right up. Because in Oregon lying to the police is and was just the price of doing business. In fact,if you not being lied to at a traffic stop you hadn’t made the stop. 
 
Probably a little cynical but more accurately reflective I could not be. If honesty is the best policy usually it may not be the case when you talking to the police when the red and blues are dancing in your rearview mirror. 
 
So let’s say you get stopped in Oregon for a traffic violation, traffic crime or because you just robbed the local 7-11. Other than the purely ethical reason, what should the guiding principle be for your decision when the answer to the question from the police maybe at best, problematic.
 
Let’s say you don’t mind lying, you just want to go to jail simply because you are about to lie to the police. Go ahead. In Oregon lying to the police is just fine, no crime. 
 
You ought to be sure however you are lying to the “correct” police at the right time about the right issue. Recall I said the police at a traffic stop for a traffic violation or crime.  I didn’t say a FBI agent during a federal criminal investigation, I didn’t say a the US Attorney in a Federal Grand jury, I didn’t say a District Attorney after being sworn to tell the truth in a Circuit Courtroom in the State of Oregon.  But if it makes you feel better, it is not a crime to lie to the police even if it has nothing to do with a traffic stop.
 
Remember, I said to the police,city,county or state. Not the FBI investigating a high profile terrorism case.Let me demonstrate the difference.
 
After the smoke cleared from the Boston Marathon and with one suspect dead and the other a wounded capture, the FBI led investigation had a license to hunt. 
 
Then suddenly we heard that three other suspects had been arrested. One of two charges against the suspects was lying to a Federal Officer during a federal criminal investigation. At least two of the suspects were alleged to have had lied to the FBI about their relationship with the two main suspects during earlier FBI interviews.
 
Had the suspect lied to Boston Police Officers or Detectives functioning purely as city police and under the same circumstances around the same issues, it is highly unlikely that they could have or would been arrested for lying.  However on the second charge leveled at all three suspects of Obstruction of Justice all bets are off.
 
So remember the next time you get stopped, or the police serve a search warrant at your home you do not have to tell the truth, or answer question or let them search your vehicle. In fact you don’t have to say or do anything at all.  
 
Now did I say that lying was always a good idea? I did not. Nor did I say what you say or do or don’t say or do will have any effect on what the police ultimately do. 
 
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently wrestling with the question of whether lying to the police during an investigation can be mentioned at trial as an element of proving guilt. To this point in many states the answer is “no”.  That may change. 
 
So I guess the old saying is that if you can’t say something truthful about something criminal or even about why you were speeding it is still the best advice to say nothing at all.

 

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