interrogation | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Policing / Procedural Law

Interrogation refers to questioning a suspect or witness by law enforcement officials or other authorities in a criminal investigation or prosecution.

Interrogation is a method used by law enforcement officers to extract information from suspects or witnesses during a criminal investigation. The questions aim to gather useful evidence or facts related to the case being investigated.

Understanding Interrogation

In a legal scenario, the term “interrogation” carries a specific meaning. It refers to direct, formal questioning conducted by law enforcement officers or other authorities. The primary goal is to gather information relevant to a criminal case. This could involve obtaining a confession, figuring out the sequence of events, or identifying other potential suspects or witnesses.

Interrogation vs. Questioning

Interrogation is different from general questioning. Questioning is any request for information and doesn’t necessarily have to occur within a legal context. Anyone can ask a question, but only law enforcement officers or other authorities can conduct an interrogation. Moreover, interrogation usually happens under certain legal constraints, which can vary depending on the jurisdiction.


Law enforcement officers utilize a variety of interrogation techniques. These might include straightforward questioning or the use of leading questions that guide the interviewee toward a particular response. Some interrogators may employ psychological strategies to persuade the suspect to provide information. However, these methods can raise ethical and legal questions, particularly if they involve coercion or undue pressure.

Rules and Ethics

Given the potential for abuse, legal guidelines exist to ensure fair interrogation practices. Many jurisdictions require legal representation for a suspect during questioning. This helps to protect the individual’s rights and ensures the legality of the interrogation process.

There are also limitations to the techniques an interrogator can use. For instance, physical or psychological torture is prohibited under international law. Moreover, deception and manipulation have to be within certain boundaries. Otherwise, a confession obtained could be ruled involuntary and discarded in court.

Importance of Proper Interrogation

Maintaining a balance is vital. On one side, effective law enforcement requires gathering as much information as possible to solve crimes. On the other hand, the rights of individuals need to be respected, and due process must be followed. Thus, a fair and legally compliant interrogation process is crucial to a functional and ethical criminal justice system.

In conclusion, interrogation is a vital tool in criminal investigations. However, it’s important that law enforcement officers adhere to legal and ethical standards during the process to ensure the rights of individuals are upheld and the integrity of the criminal justice system is maintained.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 03/09/2023


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