When people in Pennsylvania are suspected or accused of a crime, innocent people may particularly rush to answer police questions. They may believe that answering openly and honestly will protect them and win their freedom. Unfortunately, however, police and prosecutors are often most interested in securing a conviction, and if they are convinced that a suspect is responsible, they may rely on questionable evidence or psychological pressure techniques in order to coerce a confession or make a case against a suspect. While TV shows often focus on exciting police science, many forensic techniques used by police departments are actually of questionable value.
One commonly used questioning technique, however, is little known outside law enforcement and rarely makes its way into television dramas. Scientific Content Analysis, also called SCAN, is a system of reading a written questionnaire in which police are trained to glean intent or perceive deception from the words and references a suspect uses when answering questions. Many of the suppositions in SCAN seem doubtful. For example, omitting the word “I” could be seen as avoiding responsibility for a crime, and writing that gets larger or spread out across a page may indicate an attempt to pass off a lie as truthful.
These kinds of pop-psychology interpretations have little grounding in scientific research. Because SCAN itself is used mostly during the investigative process rather than being introduced into evidence in a courtroom, it has escaped the scrutiny that has brought down other unproven techniques used to garner convictions. Education and language levels can affect people’s answers, and the procedure often appears imaginative rather than scientific.
People who trust the police to hear their answers and absolve them may find themselves facing even more serious criminal charges. A criminal defense attorney may help people to navigate police questioning and protect themselves from a criminal conviction.