Virginia Beach Police Use Forged Forensic Documents to Coerce Confessions

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Police in Virginia Beach repeatedly used forged documents purporting to be from the state Department of Forensic Science during interrogations to coerce confessions in a practice that, while legal, has prompted the state attorney general to enter into a two-year “conciliation agreement” with the department, committing to uphold the policy barring forged documents and report any violations, reports the Washington Post. Police are allowed to lie in interrogations as long as those falsehoods don’t render a confession involuntary by overbearing a suspect’s will, but some state courts have explicitly barred the use of fabricated evidence in interrogations, in part for fear that the fake documents would end up being used in court or otherwise disseminated publicly. Virginia officials said the practice was discovered in April 2021, when an assistant commonwealth’s attorney asked the Virginia Department of Forensic Science for a certified copy of a report that turned out not to exist. Reviewing thousands of cases, the department found five instances between March 2016 and February 2020 where fake DFS records were used in interrogations. The department said it stopped employing the tactic as of May 1, 2021, before it learned of an investigation launched by the attorney general’s office that confirmed these findings.

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