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Swanson, Criminal Investigation 8/e
Criminal Investigation, 8/e
Charles R. Swanson, University of Georgia
Neil C. Chamelin, Assistant State Attorney, Second Judicial Circuit
Leonard Territo, University of South Florida- Tampa

Interviewing and Interrogation

Chapter Outline


A. Interviews are conducted in criminal cases for the purpose of gathering information from people who have or may have knowledge needed in the investigation.

B. The information may come from a victim or from a person who has no other relationship to the criminal activity other than being where he or she was.


A. Interviewing is the process of obtaining information from people who possess knowledge about a particular offense, as part of the process of investigation.

B. Interrogation is designed to match acquired information to a particular suspect to secure a confession.

C. There are four commonly recognized objectives to the interrogation process.

1. To obtain valuable facts.

2. To eliminate the innocent.

3. To identify the guilty.

4. To obtain a confession.


A. As in interviewing, the success of an interrogation depends on a number of personal characteristics and commitments of the investigator. Planning for and controlling the events surrounding both interviews and interrogations are important but are generally viewed as more critical to the success of an interrogation.

B. Establishing rapport, asking good questions, carefully listening and proper documentation are elements common to both forms of obtaining information. Of paramount importance are the myriad of legal requirements attendant to interrogations that are absent in interviews.


A. The effective interviewer/interrogator must be knowledgeable in the art and science of criminal investigation and know how to use psychology, salesmanship, and dramatics.

B. Persuasiveness and perseverance are essential to success. The interviewer/interrogator must make himself or herself easy to talk to. By the appropriate use of vocal inflection, modulation, and emphasis, even the Miranda warnings can be presented to a suspect in such a way as not to cause the suspect to immediately assume a defensive posture. The words can be spoken without creating an adversarial atmosphere. The interviewer/interrogator must have a flexible personality and must be able to convey empathy, sympathy, anger fear and joy at various times, as needed, but must always truly remain objective.

C. It is important that the interviewer/interrogator keep an open mind, receptive to all information regardless of its nature.


A. The success of both the interviewer or interrogator and the interview or interrogation will often be determined by the time and dedication committed to preparing for the interview or interrogation. Both the interviewer or interrogator must become familiar with the facts of the case under investigation and the victim.

1. A Witness. If the interview is to be conducted with a witness other than the victim, the interviewer should find out as much about the witness as possible before conducting the interview including motivations, perceptions and barriers that might exist.

2. The Offense. It is necessary that the investigator know specifically what crime or crimes were allegedly--committed.

3. The Victim. If the victim is a person, the investigator should learn as much as possible about his or her background, the nature of the injury or loss, attitudes toward the investigation, and any other useful information, such as the existence of insurance property crime case.

4. The interrogator must evaluate himself or herself and the conduct of the interrogation and must begin to evaluate the suspect.

5. The Suspect. The investigation should reveal as much personal background information on the suspect as can be obtained.


A There are many types of witnesses, and each has different motivations and perceptions that influence his or her responses during an interview.

B. There is no way to categorize all personalities, attitudes and other character traits. Nevertheless, there are some basic groupings that can be mentioned.

1. Some witnesses may be honest and cooperative and desire to impart information in their possession to the investigator. Despite these admirable qualities, however, the information may still be affected by other factors that influence all witnesses, such as age, physical characteristics, and emotions It may be wise in most circumstances to interview this type of witness first to obtain basic information which can then be compared with later-acquired stories.

2. Some witnesses may desire not to give any information in an interview regardless of what the may know.

3. Some witnesses may be reluctant or suspicious of the motives of the interviewer until such time as a rapport can be established and the investigator can assure the witness of his or her good intentions.

C. There may be other barriers which must be overcome in order to successfully interview someone who has knowledge of the circumstances under which a crime was committed.

1. Language barriers

2. A potential witness who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs may or may not have information that could be used at trial.

3. In evaluating information provided by juveniles, consideration needs to be given not only to chronological age but also to the level of schooling.

4. Interviewing an older person may also present a unique set of challenges. The interviewer must have knowledge and appreciation for the physical changes that may occur with aging and be able to effectively respond to those changes when conducting an interview.

5. Vision. Changes in vision that are related to aging vary widely from person to person. These changes are not strictly dependent upon chronological age or general health. The eye is so constructed that excellent vision without glasses is sometimes maintained even in extreme old age. However, this is an exception. About three-fourths of all older women and over half of all older men experience moderate to severe changes in visual functions. Those 65 or older account for half of all legally blind persons in the United States.

6. Hearing. When interviewing someone with a hearing loss investigators should: gain the person’s full attention, be at the right distance and speak clearly.

D. Competency of a Witness

1. Competency describes a witness’s personal qualifications to testify in court.

2. Among the factors an investigator must evaluate in determining the competency of a witness are age, level of intelligence, mental state, relationship to individuals involved in the case, and background characteristics that might preclude the testimony of the witness from being heard in court.

3. Relationships among individuals involved in a case may also affect a witness’s competency.

4. Background characteristics also may preclude a witness’s testimony from being accepted in court.

E. Credibility

1. Credibility is distinguished from competency in that the latter is based on the assumption that a witness is qualified and will be permitted to testify.

2. Credibility relates to that quality of a witness that renders his or her testimony worthy of belief.


A. Information provided by eyewitnesses to a criminal event is relied on heavily by both the police and courts in the investigative and adjudication stages of our system of justice, yet research indicates that eyewitness testimony may be unreliable.

B. Human perception and memory are selective and constructive functions, not exact copiers of the event perceived—constructive in that gaps will be filled to produce a logical and complete sequence of events.

C. Experts distinguish a number of factors that limit a person’s ability to give a complete account of events or to identify people accurately. The following are among those factors.

1. The significance or insignificance of the event.

2. The length of the period of observation.

3. Lack of ideal conditions.

4. Psychological factors internal to the witness.

5. The physical condition of the witness.

6. Expectancy.


A. The use of hypnosis as a means of aiding witnesses in recalling facts buried in the subconscious is often thought to overcome many of the difficulties experienced in seeking accurate human memory.

B. Hypnosis is often erroneously believed to be a form of sleep. In fact, it is the opposite. It is best described as a state of heightened awareness in which the subconscious is somewhat surfaced and the conscious is somewhat repressed.

1. In this altered state of consciousness, the subject of hypnosis has a heightened degree of suggestibility, or hypersuggestibility.

2. Hypercompliance, closely related to hypersuggestibility, is a desire on the part of the hypnotized subject to please the hypnotist or others who have supported the hypnosis effort.

3. The third major area of concern about reliability of hypnotically enhanced memory is referred to as confabulation.

C. The Hypnotist: Law Enforcement or Mental Health Professional

One of the controversies still in existence is whether a hypnotist should be a mental health professional (preferably a psychiatrist or psychologist) with special training in the use of hypnosis or a trained law enforcement investigator, also with special training in the use of hypnosis.


A. Police officers conduct interviews in a number of situations. The most common is the on-the-scene interview.

B. The physical circumstances under which the interview takes place can be critical to the value of the information obtained.

C. Although convenience of the witness is important to a successful interview, the interviewer need not relinquish the psychological advantage in selecting the time and place of the interview.

D. Privacy is of the utmost importance in conducting interviews.

E. The physical and emotional states of the witnesses are important in conducting or in determining whether to conduct an interview.


A. Unlike the interview, which may take place in any number of different locations and at various times—which may or may not be advantageous of the investigator—interrogation is a controlled process, controlled by the interrogator.

1. The most critical factor in controlling the interrogation is to ensure privacy.

2. In addition, privacy may be used as a psychological tool: the suspect may feel more willing to unload the burden of guilt in front of only one person.

B. The traditional interrogation room should be sparsely furnished, usually with only two chairs.

C. The two-way mirror, although still a useful tool for allowing others to observe the interrogation, is widely known and may cause some subjects to refuse to cooperate in the interrogation.


A. Several decades ago, Richard Bandler and John Grinder recognized that communication could be enhanced if the words and actions of the interviewer and interviewee were similar; thus, if the interviewer could"mirror" the words and actions of the witness or suspect, rapport would be more easily established.

B. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) embraces three simple concepts.

1. First, neuro comes from the idea that behavior originates from neurological processes involving the five senses—seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling. It is through these senses that we experience life.

2. Then we communicate our life experiences through language, the linguistic element.

3. Programming refers to how we organize our ideas and actions to produce results.

C. An interviewer/interrogator who understands these concepts and can get in"sync" with the witness or suspect by mirroring or matching mannerisms, actions and words can make communication barriers disappear, foster trust and create the flow of desired information.


A. Regardless of the time, place, or setting of the interview, or ultimately the type of witness or victim interview, there exists some standardization in technique.

1. An interview...has a beginning, a middle—its main segment—and an end ).

B. The Cognitive Interview Technique (See Slide 4-12)

The cognitive interview technique was developed in the hope of improving the completeness and accuracy of eyewitness accounts while avoiding some of the legal pitfalls that surround the use of hypnosis.

1. The first step is to ask the witness to reconstruct the general circumstances surrounding the incident.

2. Second the investigator asks the witness to report everything remembered about the incident and all surrounding circumstances.

3. Step three is to have the witness recall the events in a different order.

4. The fourth technique is to have the witness change perspectives.


A. The legal requirements pertaining to interrogations became of critical concern during the 1960s, and, as a result, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision that has dramatically affected the conditions under which interrogations take place.

B. Miranda v. Arizona (See Slide 4-14)

The Supreme Court, in a five to four decision, spelled out the requirements and procedures to be followed by officers when conducting an in-custody interrogation of a suspect.

1. The right to remain silent.

2. The right to be told that anything said can and will be used in court.

3. The right to consult with an attorney prior to answering any questions and the right to have an attorney present during interrogation.

4. The right to counsel. If the suspect cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one.

C. Suspect’s Response: Waiver and Alternatives (See Slides 4-15 and 4-16)

1. It is common practice for the officer to ask the suspect if he or she understands the rights as they have been explained. If the answer is yes, then the officer may ask if the subject wishes to talk with the officer. At this point, the alternatives open to the suspect are four:

1) The suspect may choose to remain silent.

2) The suspect may request counsel.

3) The suspect may waive his or her rights and agree to talk with police without the benefit of counsel.

4) The suspect may indicate a desire not to talk with the investigators.

D. Why People Confess

It is human nature to talk. Most people cannot keep a secret. It has been estimated that 80 percent of all people will confess to a crime. There are two basic categories of people will confess to a crime.

1. First, there are those guilty parties who psychologically need to"get it off their chest."

2. The second category comprises those who are not guilty but who act under some urge to confess.


A. For investigators to understand the proper application of the Miranda requirements, it is essential that they understand the meaning of in-custody interrogation.

B. Custody Defined

Analyses of case decisions show that there is not yet a universally accepted definition of custody. Rather, case-by-case analysis is used to determine the applicability of Miranda requirements.

C. Interrogation Defined

For many years following the Miranda ruling, there was considerable confusion over what constituted questioning or interrogation. Again the Supreme Court has tried to clarify this issue through various decisions. See Rhode Island v. Innis.


A. Effective interrogators, like interviewers, must be skilled in psychology, persuasiveness, and acting. Good interrogators must also be good seducers; they must be able to make others do what they want them to do.


A. Just as in interviewing, it is important to establish rapport with the person to be questioned. And just as in interviewing, neuro-linguistic programming techniques can help.

B. Composing and Asking Question: General Principles

There are certain basic rules an interrogator should keep in mind when composing and asking questions.

1. For example, questions should not be complex.

2. Questions should be short, direct and confined to one topic.

C. Recognizing and Coping with Deception

Deception is not always easy to detect, but, in general, there are both verbal and nonverbal cues that can be examined to determine whether a suspect is telling the truth or is being deceptive.

1. Verbal Signals. Verbal signals are generally easier for a deceptive subject to control than nonverbal signals.

2. Nonverbal Signals: Body Language. There are generally far more nonverbal signals and behavior than there are verbal.

B. Statement Analysis

The investigator should carefully review a verbatim transcript of the suspect’s statement to analyze the information.


A. Identical techniques do not work for all interrogations. Approaches and questions differ with the type of suspect being questioned.

1. The logical approach is based on common sense and sound reasoning.

2. The emotional approach appeals to the suspect’s sense of honor, morals, righteousness, fair play, justice, family pride, religion, decency and restitution.

3. A sympathetic approach that gives the suspect a way out of a predicament can often be successful and because the suspect is offered the opportunity to save face, confessions are sometimes forthcoming.

4. When a suspect’s guilt is uncertain, the interrogator should begin with an indirect approach, assuming that the interrogator already possesses all necessary facts.

5. The"Mutt-and-Jeff," or good-guy/bad-guy, approach to interrogation works in some cases.

6. Playing one person against the other sometimes works when there are at least two suspects, both of whom swear they are telling the truth during separate interrogations.

B. Technological Contribution

In 1996, instructors who teach interviewing and interrogation at the FBI Academy, met with representatives of the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University to determine if the laboratory could create a computer program that would realistically simulate a human personality.

1. The Applied Physics Laboratory delivered the software product in mid-1998. The character created was named Mike Simmen (for simulate man). Mike’s"brain" was designed with both logical and emotional components.

2. The software has been used at the FBI Academy since October 1998, and it does appear to be improving the interviewing skills of those who are using it.


A. Regardless of the amount of their preparation and experience investigators or interrogators can conduct a fully successful interview only if they are good listeners.

B. Listening is as valuable in interview and interrogation as is questioning.

C. To be effective, one must be an active listener, too. It has been estimated that 65 percent of communication is nonverbal.


A. The majority of routine cases involving interviews, handwritten notes made by the investigator during and immediately following the interview generally serve as sufficient documentation.

B. Note taking during the interview raises two primary concerns for the interviewer.

1. First, it may occasionally be distracting or suspicious to a witness; witnesses may be reluctant to give information knowing that it is being documented.

2. Second, the interviewer should avoid becoming preoccupied with taking notes, for it creates the appearance of inattentiveness.

C. The best form of documentation is a sound recording or a sound and visual recording of the interview.


A. Documenting an interrogation consists of three main phases: note taking, recording, and obtaining written statements. All three of these phases are geared to accomplishing two basic functions.

1. To retain information for the benefit of the interrogator and the continued investigation.

2. To secure a written statement or confession from the accused for later use as evidence in court.

B. The three most widely accepted methods of keeping notes during an interrogation are mental notes, written notes, and notes taken by a third party.

C. Police use of audio-video technology to document interrogations became widespread in the 1990s.


A. Prior to 1936 the only test for the validity and admissibility of a confession or admission was its voluntariness.

B. The Free-and-Voluntary Rule

The first notable incidence of Supreme Court intervention into interrogation practices came about in Brown v. Mississippi.

1. In this 1936 case, the Supreme Court held that under no circumstances could a confession be considered freely and voluntarily given when it was obtained as a result of physical brutality and violence inflicted by law enforcement officials on the accused.

C. The Delay-in-Arraignment Rule

In 1943 the Supreme Court delivered another decision concerning the admissibility of confessions.

1. The Court held that the failure of federal officers to take the prisoner before a committing officer without unnecessary delay automatically rendered his confession inadmissible.