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Don’t Fall for the Reid Technique


Somewhere in your nightmares, a scary monster tells you about something bad that has happened.  Your mind starts to race with worries, but the monster’s affect remains neutral; somehow, this makes the situation even scarier.  The monster leaves the room for a few minutes, but then he comes back and starts talking to you as if nothing out of the ordinary is going on.  It starts out as small talk, but the monster opens up to you, and he starts to seem less like a monster and more like a regular person.  Eventually, the conversation turns to why you are here and what you have to do with the situation the monster described at the beginning.  After a few reassurances, the monster turns back into a monster before your eyes, and you start to see that there is no way out.  Every possible course of action leads to a horrible punishment.  You aren’t dreaming.  This isn’t a horror movie, and the monster isn’t a movie villain.  The monster is a police officer, and the situation is the Reid technique, an interrogation tactic which, despite all logic, remains legal in the United States.  Here, our Miami criminal defense lawyer explains how unjust the Reid technique is and how you can avoid getting drawn into it.

What Is the Reid Technique?

The Reid technique is the invention of John Reid, who began his career as a Chicago police officer and then focused his work on polygraph tests, also known as lie detector tests.  Wikipedia describes the polygraph as a “junk science device,” but today, the polygraph is much less scary than the Reid technique, because, unlike the results of a Reid technique investigation, the results of a polygraph test are not admissible in court.

The Reid technique has nine steps, one for each of the circles of Hell, according to Dante’s Inferno.  It is possible to summarize them in three phases, though.  In the first phase, the interrogator describes the alleged crime in neutral terms, without indicating that the defendant was involved in it.  In the second phase, the interrogator does not talk directly about the crime and focuses on getting the defendant to let down his or her guard.  The third is the “anything you say and do indicates your guilt” phase.  The interrogator interprets all your actions, from fidgeting to tears to indignation to silence, as indications of your guilt, and you cannot leave until you confess, or at least say something that the interrogator interprets as a confession.

The Reid Technique Is Nothing But Trouble

The Reid technique has been perpetuating injustice from the start.  Its first victim was Darrel Parker, a Nebraska man accused of killing his wife.  Parker confessed under the duress of the Reid technique, but he recanted his confession the next day and pleaded not guilty to the charges.  The jury convicted him, and the judge sentenced him to life in prison.  Parker appealed his conviction, and the court eventually overturned the conviction and released him.  He later filed a civil lawsuit related to his wrongful conviction and received a damages award of $500,000 in 1960s money, but Reid was just getting started.

By the time Reid died in 1982, police departments across the United States were using the Reid technique to obtain confessions, and so was the FBI, and they continue to use it until now.  Not only does the Reid technique lead to innocent people getting convicted, it also throws investigators off the trail of uncovering the truth.  Young and naïve people tearfully confess to anything that the investigator insinuates.  Cynical people who have long since learned not to believe anything they hear in an interrogation room but know that they are toast no matter what they say make deliberately misleading confessions.  In neither case does this lead to investigators or jurors finding out what actually happened.

The worst part about the Reid technique is that you can avoid it completely by exercising your legal rights.  If a police officer tries to engage you in conversation, simply invoke your right to remain silent until after you have had a chance to meet with a criminal defense lawyer.  Discuss the situation privately with your lawyer, and then, if you decide that this is appropriate, agree to be questioned while your lawyer is present.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you avoid the dishonest tactics that are, unfortunately, prevalent in criminal investigations.  Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a free, confidential consultation about your case.


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