Clarifying/Correcting Court Statements about the Reid Technique

Written By: Reid
Jun 20, 2018
State v. Pico (2018)
In their opinion the court stated the following:

During at least part of the interview, Detective Rich used what is known as the "Reid technique." This technique involves telling the interviewee that law enforcement officials have certain incriminating evidence (which they do not, in fact, have), in the hope that the interviewee will disclose factually accurate details about the event in question.


One of the core principals of the Reid Technique is to always conduct interrogations in accordance with the guidelines established by the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court in Frazier v. Cupp (1969) stated that misrepresenting evidence to a suspect "is, while relevant, insufficient in our view to make this otherwise voluntary confession inadmissible. These cases must be decided by viewing the "totality of circumstances"."

In our books and training program we advise the audience of this decision, but urge caution as to its application, stating:

  1. Introducing fictitious evidence during an interrogation presents a risk that the guilty suspect may detect the investigators bluff, resulting in a significant loss of credibility and sincerity. For this reason, we recommend that this tactic be used as a last resort effort.
  2. This tactic should not be used for the suspect who acknowledges that he may have committed the crime even though he has no specific recollections of doing so. Under this circumstance, the introduction of such evidence may lead to claims that the investigator was attempting to convince the suspect that he, in fact, did commit the crime.
  3. This technique should be avoided when interrogating a youthful suspect with low social maturity or a suspect with diminished mental capacity. These suspects may not have the fortitude or confidence to challenge such evidence and, depending on the nature of the crime, may become confused as to their own possible involvement if the police tell them evidence clearly indicates they committed the crime.

Dassey v. Dittman (2017)

from the dissenting opinion:

Courts have long expressed concern about approaches such as the Reid Technique that rely on psychological coercion. Just four years after the first edition of the manual was published, (1962) the Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona repeatedly sighted and implicitly criticized the Reid approach.


The Supreme Court's references to the Reid approach in the Miranda opinion were
informational with respect to the current state of law enforcement interrogation practices at that time. In the Miranda decision the US Supreme Court referenced the book, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions by Fred Inbau and John Reid (1962) and the predecessor book Lie Detection and Criminal Interrogation(1953) a combined total of eleven times.

Click here for the exact text from the Miranda decision and the corresponding footnotes which reference the Inbau/Reid books:

Also from the dissenting opinion:

"For many years, the Reid technique has been criticized by scholars and experts for increasing the rate of false confessions. As far back as Miranda, the Supreme Court warned that "[e]ven without employing brutality, the third degree used in the Reid technique exacts a heavy toll on individual liberty and trades on the weakness of individuals, and may even give rise to a false confession."


The Miranda court did not say that the Reid technique exacts a heavy toll on individual liberty and trades on the weakness of individuals. Their comment was made in reference to custody. The US Supreme Court specifically stated, "...the very fact of custodial interrogation exacts a heavy toll on individual liberty, and trades on the weakness of individuals."