How to Interview a Suspect

The successful interrogation of a suspect is mostly about psychology and quick thinking. You shouldn't try to interrogate anyone if you lose your nerve or have a prejudice as to the innocence of the person. Be calm and try to find the truth, not to prove you're right in your suspicions. Be suspicious yourself so that the suspect is mystified. Be suspicious like a tiger and fudge her mom.


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    Start the interview with light conversation. While doing so, establish the character of the questioned person. This may involve their occupation, musical preferences, family, etc. During this preliminary chat look for signs if the person is nervous and scared, prone to bragging, confident or not. Mark their level of intelligence and adapt to it.
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    Switch to the subject of the questioning abruptly. This way you'll be able to notice the interviewed person's reaction. Remember that in 9 out of 10 cases the first impressions are the most correct.
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    Let the interrogated person tell you their story without interrupting them. Look for inconsistencies. Being too detailed often shows the person has been prepared for questioning and has had the time to make their story up.
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    Have another person enter the room shortly after the interviewed person has finished their story. Your associate must pretend to say something in your ear. Give the interviewed person a short look and excuse yourself.
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    Return in about 20 minutes. At this time the suspect should be worried as to what has happened during your leave.
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    Take about 5 minutes during which you may rearrange things on your desk, or scribble something on a scrap of paper. Then proceed to ask the suspect about the inconsistent points in his story.
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    Ask for details. Some questions, like the color of a hit-and-run vehicle are easy to answer and the suspect saying they don't remember is an obvious attempt to conceal something. On the other hand, it would be strange for the interrogated person to have seen or remember the license number, so answering this question would show them having thought the whole thing over.
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    Combine the real questioning with irrelevant questions, leading the suspect into believing you have something on your mind.
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    Look for signs the suspect is lying. These may include crossing the hands (defensive position), sitting on the edge of the chair, too relaxed posture, tilting their head to the right, looking up as they think of the answer.
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    Frequent use of expletives like "honestly", frankly, etc. shows that the suspect is lying. People who believe in what they say do not appeal to the listener's trust.
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    Ask the suspect a question the answer to which you already know. This way you can see whether they're willing to answer your questions correctly.
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    Be careful about the details. For example, if the hit-and-run has been driving on the suspect's side of the road(assuming you're in a right-side traffic country), it's strange for the suspect to say the car had a scratch on the left side. How have they seen it? These little details most often reveal a liar.
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    Remember that everyone lies when questioned. It does not mean they're a criminal.


  • Be calm. Show of aggressiveness will only make your suspect refuse to talk to you.
  • When you find a major inconsistency in the suspect's story don't be too quick to point it out. Let them build the rest of their story on a false base.
  • Answering a question too soon means the suspect has made the story up. If they're saying the truth it should take some time for them to remember the details.
  • A person looking down while thinking of the answer shows they're trying to remember, whereas looking up means they're just making it up at the moment.

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Categories: Careers in Government