Arrest and Patrol Car

All officers hear it, and it’s most likely said many, many times each and every day all across this great land of ours.

It’s a phrase that’s spoken by the wisest of the wise—the soothsayers of the legal world. The top legal minds of the entire universe..

That famous line is typically delivered in a sing-songish manner. Gently and soothingly. Almost like a lullaby.

I’ve heard it more times than I could possibly begin to count. And, I can still hear those kind, soothing words today, and they are …

“I. Know. My. Rights, you fat pig! You gotta let me go ’cause you didn’t read me my rights! Now take off these cuffs … NOW!!!!”


When is a police officer required to advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings?

I’ll give you a hint, it’s not like we see on television. Surprised?

Television shows often have officers spouting off Miranda warnings the second they have someone in cuffs. Not so. I’ve been in plenty of situations where I chased a suspect, caught him, he resisted, and then we wound up on the ground fighting like street thugs while I struggled to apply handcuffs to his wrists. And yes, words were spoken once I managed to get to my feet, but Miranda wasn’t one of them. Too many letters, if you know what I mean. Words consisting of only four letters seemed to flow quite easily at that point.

When Is Miranda Required?

Two elements must be in place for the Miranda warning requirement to apply. The suspect must be in custody and he must be undergoing interrogation.

Writers, this is an important detail – A suspect is in police custody if he’s under formal arrest or if his freedom has been restrained or denied to the extent that he feels as if he’s no longer free to leave.

The fellow wearing the handcuffs in the photo below is not free to leave. Therefore, should the officer wish to question him he must advise him of his right to remain silent, etc. However, if the officer decides to not ask questions/interrogate, then Miranda is not required.


I’ve arrested criminals, many of them, in fact, and never advised them of their rights. Not ever. And that’s because I didn’t ask them any questions.

Sometimes officers receive a stack of outstanding arrest warrants for a variety of cases and it’s their job that day to go out and round up those folks. Those officers have no clue as to the circumstances of the crime or case details, therefore they’d not know the appropriate questions to ask. All they know is that the boss handed them a pile of warrants and told them to fetch. This, by the way, is often one of the mundane duties assigned to rookie officers, along with directing traffic and writing parking tickets.

So, the warrant-serving officers locate the person named on the warrant and haul them to jail for processing. The officer who had the warrant issued may or may not question the arrested person at a later time. But the arresting officer, the one who played hide and seek  with the crook for a few hours on a Monday morning is most likely out of the picture from that point onward. So no questioning = no Miranda.


Interrogation is not only asking questions, but any actions, words, or gestures used by an officer to elicit an incriminating response can be considered as an interrogation.

If these two elements are in place officers must advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings prior to questioning. If not, statements made by the suspect may not be used in court. Doesn’t mean the arrest isn’t good, just that his statements aren’t admissible.

Officers do not have to advise anyone of their rights if they’re not going to ask questions. Defendants are convicted all the time without ever hearing that sing-songy police officer’s poem,  You have the right to …

Miranda facts:

Officers should repeat the Miranda warnings during each period of questioning. For example, during questioning officers decide to take a break for the night. They come back the next day to try again. They must advise the suspect of his rights again before resuming the questioning.

If an officer takes over questioning for another officer, she should repeat the warnings before asking her questions.

If a suspect asks for an attorney, officers may not ask any questions.

If a suspect agrees to answer questions, but decides to stop during the session and asks for an attorney, officers must stop the questioning.

Suspects who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs should not be questioned. Also, anyone who exhibits signs of withdrawl symptoms should not be questioned.

Officers should not question people who are seriously injured or ill.

People who are extremely upset or hysterical should not be questioned.

Officers may not threaten or make promises to elicit a confession.

Many officers carry a pre-printed Miranda warning card in their wallets. A National Sheriff’s Association membership card (same design and feel of a credit card) has the warnings printed on the reverse side.

Fact: The Miranda warning requirement stemmed from a case involving a man named Ernesto Miranda.  Miranda killed a young woman in Arizona and was arrested for the crime. During questioning Miranda confessed to the slaying, but the police had failed to tell him he had the right to silence and that he could have an attorney present during the questioning. Miranda’s confession was ruled inadmissible; however, the court convicted him based on other evidence.

Miranda was released from prison after he served his sentence. Not long after his release he was killed during a bar fight.

His killer was advised of his rights according to the precedent setting case of Miranda v. Arizona. He chose to remain silent.

*Some individual department/location policies requires their officers to advise of Miranda at the point of arrest. However, the law does not require them to do so.


The Writers’ Police Academy is pleased to present MurderCon, one of the most exciting opportunities ever made available to writers. In fact, the event is a rare one-of-a-kind event that’s never been offered before and may never be offered again.

MurderCon, presented by the Writers’ Police Academy, is a special hands-on training event for writers of all genres, with a specific focus on solving the crime of murder. It’s a unique juncture of fiction and fact at a major source of modern crime-scene investigation technology, Sirchie.

Attendees receive the same instruction that’s offered to, and attended by, top homicide detectives and investigators from around the world. First-hand experience will provide writers with the tools needed to portray crime scene details realistically, and to share with their readers the experience of what it’s like to investigate a murder.

MurderCon’s incredibly detailed and cutting-edge workshops, taught by some of the world’s leading experts, has never been available to writers, anywhere.

Yes, MurderCon is a “Killer” event, and you’re invited to attend!

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Interrogation classes at MurderCon taught by renowned expert, Paul Bishop.

Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop is a nationally recognized behaviorist and expert in deception detection. He spent 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department where his high profile Special Assault Units regularly produced the highest number of detective initiated arrests and highest crime clearance rates in the city. Twice selected as LAPD’s Detective of the Year, he currently conducts law enforcement related seminars for city, state, and private agencies. Paul has written numerous scripts for episodic television and is the author of fifteen novels, including the award winning Lie Catchers and five books in his LAPD Homicide Detective Fey Croaker series.

* Paul’s appearance at the 2019 MurderCon event is sponsored by bestselling author Kendra Elliot.

Police officers are required to follow a set of strict court-ordered rules when interrogating a suspect who’s in their custody. And, if they don’t follow those set-in-stone rules, any statement made by the suspect would most likely be ruled inadmissible in court. Imagine if that wrongfully-obtained statement had been a full confession to a murder. Definitely not good.

So here’s a handy checklist for your protagonists to follow when they’ve got their bad guy under the hot lights.

1. Physical abuse is forbidden. So put away the rubber hoses.

2. Promises of leniency are also not allowed. Police officers do not have the authority to reduce a jail or prison sentence, nor can they pick the jail or prison where a suspect will serve his time. An officer’s involvement in the case ends with her court testimony.

3. Miranda warnings (reading of rights—you have the right to remain silent … etc.) are given before interrogating a suspect who’s in custody. It’s not like you see on TV. Officers do not begin spouting off the warnings the second they arrest someone. No, no, and NO! Only to people they intend to question. And, questioning is not reserved for serious felonies. People who commit misdemeanors are questioned as well. Keep in mind, though, that department policy may require some officers to present/read/announce the warnings to every person they take into custody, but it is not the norm to do so.

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Miranda v. Arizona is the case that started the ball rolling. (click here)

4. Officers are not required to give the Miranda warnings when questioning a witness—someone who is not a suspect. Remember: In custody = Read Miranda warnings. No custody = No Miranda warnings.

5. Officers posing as prisoners in any correctional facility (undercover assignment) not required to give Miranda warnings/advisement of rights to prisoners before asking them questions. Therefore, Barney Fife was absolutely following the law when he questioned a prisoner while posing as a fellow crook. See, I told you that show was an accurate portrayal of police work.

6. Miranda warnings should be given each time there’s a significant delay in questioning. For example, you break to get a good night’s sleep and then resume the next day. Officers should give the Miranda warnings before resuming the questioning.

7. Each new/different officer who questions the suspect should again advise him of Miranda. Now, I don’t mean that if five officers are in the room at the same time, each one should take turns reading the guy his rights. I’m referring to the instances where, say, one officer questioned the suspect for a while and then left. Then another officer (might even be from another agency) comes in to ask questions. The new officer would need to advise the suspect of the Miranda warnings. There’s no such thing as a “blanket Miranda warning” that covers everyone at all times.

8. If a suspect, at any time during the questioning, states that he does not understand his rights the officer should stop and repeat the warnings. They should then continue with the warnings until the suspect states that he fully understands and waives each of them.

9. If the officer gives the warnings and then the suspect says he does not wish to answer, the officer may not continue the questioning.

10. If the suspect requests a lawyer, the officer may not question him until an attorney is present. However, that doesn’t mean a lawyer will drop what he’s doing and run down to the police station. It could be days before an attorney is appointed to represent the little darling. And, the suspect could change his mind at any time and decide to answer questions without an attorney being present. Sitting in jail sometimes “changes the mind,” hoping that cooperation will gain their freedom.

11. Officers should never interrogate suspects who’re obviously intoxicated, suffering from withdrawal, severely injured, suffering from mental illness, or extremely upset (hysterical).

12. Officers cannot legally tell suspects that they’ll allow others to harm them if they don’t confess. You see this all the time on TV and in books – “I’m going to put you in a cell with Big John Bend’emover if you don’t tell me what I want to know.” No.

* Officers should read the Miranda warnings from a pre-printed form or card, not recite them from memory. Reading from a form provides consistency and prevents any omissions and additions, even slight ones, which could be used against the state’s case. If possible, it’s best to have the suspect sign a pre-printed form, an agreement to waive his rights and talk to the officer(s). Someone should witness the signing.

Miranda Warnings


  • You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Do you understand?
  • Anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law. Do you understand?-
  • You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future. Do you understand?-
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. Do you understand?-
  • If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney. Do you understand?-
  • Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?

Those of you who’ve visited this site over the years know that cordite is a big NO and that cops are NOT required to spout off Miranda rights the second they apply handcuffs to the wrists of an offender. You do remember those two points, right?

For the newcomers, here’s a quick refresher on the reading of rights (click the above link to read more about cordite).


When is a police officer required to advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings? Well, I’ll give you a hint, it’s not like we see on television. Surprised?

Television shows officers spouting off Miranda warnings the second they have someone in cuffs. Not so. I’ve been in plenty of situations where I chased a suspect, caught him, he resisted, and then we wound up on the ground fighting like street thugs while I struggled to apply handcuffs to his wrists. I can promise you I had a few words to say after I pulled the scuz to his feet, but Miranda wasn’t one of them. Too many letters. At that point, I could only think of words of the four letter variety.

Custodial Interrogation

Two elements must be in place for the Miranda warning requirement to apply.

  • The suspect must be in custody
  • He must be undergoing interrogation (advisement of Miranda comes prior to questioning, while in custody).

A suspect is in police custody if he’s under formal arrest or if his freedom has been restrained or denied to the extent that he feels as if he’s no longer free to leave.

This fellow is not free to leave.


Interrogation is not only asking questions, but any actions, words, or gestures used by an officer to elicit an incriminating response can be considered as an interrogation.

If these two elements are in place officers must advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings prior to questioning. If not, statements made by the suspect may not be used in court. The absence of Miranda doesn’t mean the arrest isn’t good, just that his statements aren’t admissible.

Officers are not required to advise anyone of their rights if they’re not going to ask questions. Defendants are convicted all the time without ever hearing that sing-songy police officer’s poem,  You have the right to …













Deception and Lying: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

We all know that it’s illegal to lie to the FBI. And we all know what can happen if you do. That’s right, you go to federal prison where you’ll join the elite Martha Stewart Club.

Making false statements (18 U.S.C. § 1001) is a federal crime laid out in Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code. This is the law that prohibits knowingly and willfully telling fibs to the cops.

On the other hand, it’s perfectly fine for the cops to lie to you. Seems fair.

Police detectives/officers are legally permitted to “stretch the truth  lie in order to solve criminal cases. The case law that permits the officers to fib to suspects is Frazier v. Cupp (1969).

In Frazier, the police falsely told murder suspect Martin E. Frazier that his cousin, Jerry Lee Rawls, had implicated him in the crime (the two were together at the time). He then confessed but later claimed that police shouldn’t be permitted to lie because otherwise he wouldn’t have admitted guilt. The Supreme Court agreed with the police and they’ve been legally fibbing to crooks every day since.

Police investigators use a variety of deceptive tactics, such as:

  • Displaying false sympathy and/or claiming to understand the situation
  • Minimizing the seriousness of the offense and the offenders role
  • Falsely stating there is hard evidence to support a conviction
  • Confession from an accomplice that implicates the suspect
  • And the ever popular, “We have an eyewitness who saw you there.” 

The Florida Second District Court of Appeal went a bit further by limiting just how far the  police can go when stretching the truth. In Florida v. Cayward (1989), the court ruled that it’s perfectly okay to tell fibs (orally) but they may not fabricate evidence in order to deceive suspects. Cayward claimed the police fabricated laboratory reports as a trick to induce a confession. It worked and he spilled the beans. However, the court said police crossed the line and ruled in Cayward’s favor and suppressed the confession.

To sum up – Don’t lie to the cops, and …




Imagine that you, the police detective, have just arrived at the scene of a murder. Patrol officers, after their hurried, blue-light-and-wailing-siren response, immediately secured the area and have ten potential suspects standing by to speak with you. And that’s where you shine. You’re well-known for your abilities as an interrogator. But how exactly do you begin an interview or interrogation? What are your first words? How do you know they’ll be the right words?

Well, we all know that no two people are exactly alike, right? Therefore, the ten suspects most likely have stark differences in personalities, backgrounds, physical characteristics, habits, hobbies, and likes and dislikes.

Elaborate Disguises Help to Avoid Arrest!

Image #1 – Sometimes criminals use elaborate disguises (above) to conceal their identities from authorities.


Image #2 – Suspect prior to donning the disguise. See how easily it is for bad guys to avoid detection! No one could possibly recognize this man as being the same guy in image #1.

Now, speaking of dislikes, you can safely assume that one of the more common hostilities will be an aversion of police officers. Yes, believe it or not, there are actually people out there who just don’t think too kindly of the men and women who wear badges and uniforms (What a surprise!). And, along with the basic hatred of the blue polyester clothing and shiny shoes comes a huge portion of distrust. I know … more surprising news, huh?

A good interviewer, though, finds ways around all that hatred and lack of trust. And, by possessing the remarkable ability to overcome those obstacles, professional interviewers/interrogators are nearly worth their weight in gold when it comes to crime-solving. How do they do it? Well, for starters, to be a really good interviewer one must be a fantastic listener. I’ll repeat that for the “motor-mouths” out there. A good interviewer must be a good listener. A Good Listener. Good listener. Listen. Shhhh ………… listen. Stop talking and what? Ah, there you go.

Good Actors!

A savvy interviewer is also a human chameleon, a person who’s able to change tactics and topics as quickly as the suspect formulates and weaves new lies and new alibis. Good interviewers are also good actors.

The successful interviewer must possess the ability to detect subtle changes in a suspect’s voice, mannerisms, and attitude. The investigator must also know to never judge a person and their capabilities by his/her appearance. After all, criminals come in all shapes and sizes, and from all walks of life.

This also works in reverse. Investigators should never assume the worst about someone. Shabby clothing and a disheveled appearance are not positive indicators of criminal behavior. Like a suit and tie are not solid indicators of success. And these differences are part of why interviews and interrogation are often extremely important aspects of police investigations.

So let’s try a little exercise to see how you measure up as an interviewer. I think most of you will find that you’re already quite good at it, and you’ll soon see why.

The Crime

The body of 26-year-old movie starlet Iona Porche was found in a walk-in closet, not far from the bathtub in her bedroom suite. She was quite dead, and most definitely squeaky clean and embarrassingly nude. Well, except for the bath towel draped across her right leg.

Ms. Porche’s personal assistant told you that she’d been concerned about the assortment of “weirdos” hanging around her boss in recent weeks. The assistant also stated that Ms. Porche was extremely naive, and that perhaps some of the odd folks had been taking advantage of her boss’s generosity.

The really odd thing, she’d said, was that she’d overheard Ms. Porche involved in what sounded like a bitter argument with at least two males and one female (it was, after all, difficult to make out the voices with her ear tightly pressed to the wall). And, for the life of her, the assistant couldn’t understand why on earth Ms. Porche would allow those people in the room with her while she was taking a bath. “That sort of thing should be kept private,” were her exact words.

Iona Porche on the set of her latest hit movie, “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Attend Psycho Serial Killer Camp for Dumb Teens Who Can’t Outrun Men With Chainsaws and Machetes”

After thanking the assistant for what was basically a gossip-fest, you begin the interviews of the ten suspects. You know it’s important to first establish that you’re in charge, but you’ve also got to make the suspect feel comfortable with you. In other words, you’ve got to be the boss while assuming the role of best friend, mother, father, brother, cousin, and even their drunk uncle, if that’s what it takes to solve the case.

Yes, good investigators must have the ability to “walk the walk and talk the talk.” Finding common ground can definitely help start the dialog flowing. In fact, it’s a must in most instances.

If the suspect is a green lizard-like man with horns, bumps under the skin where eyebrows should be, head to toe tattoos, and a forked tongue, then the good detective could possibly begin to build rapport by speaking about the silly Bugs Bunny tattoo he’d gotten on his right butt cheek after drinking one too many tequila shots the night of his twenty-first birthday. Doing so could be the ice-breaker needed to start the wagging of Mr. Lizard’s tongue.

Now, with a conversation underway, the detective can ease into the real purpose of the meeting by asking simple questions, such as, “How did you know the victim? Was she your friend? A lover? A co-worker?” The idea is to establish a connection between the victim and the suspect, if there is one.

Okay, you have the basic concept. So what could you say to this next suspect that could be the start of a trust-building conversation?

Common Courtesy Goes a Long Way

Did you offer him a soft drink and candy bar because his breath smelled like root beer and chocolate? Sure, that’s a start. And please do look for the little things, not just an overall survey of the person seated in the interview room. There always more than meets the eye. Always. Don’t allow your detective to become mired in tunnel vision..

What you probably wouldn’t want to say to the suspect in the above photo is that you own a plaid cover for your motor home that’s practically the same size as his shirt. Besides, common courtesy goes a long way in police work, and in life in general. A badge is not a license to be mean. If a man, or woman, is thirsty … let them drink. If you’ve held them for many hours without food or drink, send someone to the nearest fast food joint for a burger. Get them some water or a soft drink. Besides, a simple act of human kindness could go a long way to building a rapport. And, well, it’s the decent thing to do. I know, the guy just butchered his neighbor’s grandpa. Still …

A little Fib Here or There

How about this next suspect? How do you get inside his head? Hmm … maybe that was a poor choice of words, but you know what I mean.

A great ice-breaker could be telling him about your cousin Sammy “The Nose” who used to entertain the neighborhood kids by shoving sewer rats up his nostrils. And yes, it is okay to tell a fib at this stage of the game—“I used to have a pet snake who looked just like yours. I named him ‘Slim’ after my dad. His nickname was Slim Jim.”

All of this is solid and basic information for a police detective, but did you notice that it’s also a great tool that could help writers add depth and personality to their characters? Readers want a personal connection to the people who live inside your books. They want to know them. To know what makes them tick. Why do they do what they do? When do they do it? Is it a compulsion? Are they obsessed? And it is the writer’s job to deliver answers to those questions by allowing the reader to follow the characters as they travel their daily journeys throughout a normal and believable world.

Sit the Character Across From You

So, try it for yourself. Have your characters “sit” in a chair across from you and then find that one big thing that defines them—the forked tongue or the candy bar and root beer. Then continue to question your “suspect” until you “know” them as a person. You’ll soon find that with each question comes another layer, until soon you have a very real but fictional character sitting across from you. Of course, you may want to do this when no one else is at home to avoid being carted off by the net-wielding folks who run Nervous Hospitals.

For now, you can practice your interviewing skills with this next potential suspect. Oh, I almost forgot, always remember to watch the eyes. They tell 70% of the suspect’s story. 10% is up to you. The other 20% lives in the imaginations of your readers. It’s up to you, though, to set those minds in motion.


The art of interrogation is exactly that … an art. It’s an elaborate song and dance routine that begins with the two participants squaring off, much like a pair or group of birds searching for a mate. Doesn’t make sense, you say? Well, lets compare the Blue Manakin to the investigators who’re hard at it trying to illicit a confession from a bad guy.

Step One

Blue Manakin – An alpha male initiates the ritual by first forming a team of birds to help him attract females.

Cops – The cop in charge picks other cops to serve as either good cop or bad cop, or to simply be present as witnesses.

Step Two

Blue Manakin – When an interested female comes along, the team begins flying around her, flapping their wings and making a buzzing noise. She likes this.

Cops – Try to make the suspect feel at ease with casual conversation, a little something to eat and/or drink, and perhaps even a cigarette. Bad guys like this.

Step Three

Blue Manakin – When he feels the time is right, the alpha bird commands his partners to stop the flapping and buzzing and other acrobatics. If the female liked what she saw, she’ll mate with the alpha male.

Cops – When he/she feels the time is right, he/she will stop the questioning and listen. If the suspect likes what he’s heard, he spills his guts.

Step Four

Blue Manakin – The alpha bird’s team is dismissed.

Cops – With confession in hand, the suspect is delivered to the county jail. Everyone moves on to the next case. If the cops did their jobs correctly, all will be well. If not, the case is dismissed.

Step Five

Blue Manakin – Alpha’s team members stand by, waiting for something to happen to alpha male so they can battle to take his place.

Cops – There’s more to do than any one investigator could accomplish in a lifetime. No one hurries to take his/her place.

During the interrogation ritual, investigators use a variety of methods to gain confessions. One such tactic is the Reid Technique. The Reid Technique is a nine-step method that is in three primary stages – Fact Analysis, The Investigative Interview, and The Interrogation.

Keep in mind that officers are permitted to lie during an interrogation. However, they are not allowed to offer leniency, a spot in a particular jail or prison, and they are not, at any time, to threaten a person for any reason.

The nine steps of the Reid Technique are:

1. The positive confrontation. The investigator tells the suspect she knows they’re guilty and has the evidence to back up the claim.

2. Theme development. The investigator then presents a moral reasoning (theme) for the offense. This could include, for example, placing the moral blame on someone else or circumstances beyond the control of the suspect. The investigator delivers the theme in a monologue fashion and in a definite manner that is sympathetic to the suspect. They’re trying to “win” his confidence.

Interrogation: The Reid Technique

3. Handling denials. The suspect is likely to ask permission to speak and this is usually to deny the accusations. The investigator should not allow the suspect to do

so (continue with the denials). Move on.

Suspects often interrupt an officer’s questioning to exclaim their innocence, guilty or not.

4. Overcoming objections. When attempts to deny are not successful, a guilty suspect sometimes finds a way to object to an officer’s accusations by offering reasons as to why they’ve claimed innocence – “I couldn’t have killed Sally Sue, because I loved her.” The savvy investigator should pretend to accept these objections as if they were the absolute truth. This is not the time to argue with the suspect. Instead, set aside the reasons for the denial for further development of the theme.

5. Procurement and retention of suspect’s attention. The investigator must always be sure the suspect is attentive and focusing on the theme and the officer’s words rather than the possible consequences for his actions (punishment). To do so, it’s best to close the physical distance between the detective and the suspect. Keep the suspect’s mind as far away from prison and jail as possible.

6. Handling the suspect’s passive mood. The investigator should maintain an understanding and sympathetic demeanor while encouraging the suspect to tell the truth.

7. Presenting an alternative question. The investigator should present two choices, with one being a better justification for the crime other than the truth – “I don’t think you’d do something like this on purpose, right? Why don’t you tell me exactly what happened so we can best know how to move forward. I want to help you do the right thing.”

8. Having the suspect orally relate various details of the offense. After the suspect accepts one side of the alternative (this is the “gotcha” moment because they’ve just admitted guilt), the detective should immediately acknowledge the admission of guilt and then have them describe what took place, in their own words. This is the time to LISTEN. A great investigator knows how and when to listen. LISTEN!!

9. Converting an oral confession to a written confession. The suspect writes his confession. Or, it’s transcribed and he signs it.