An interrogation is the formal questioning of a suspect, often by law enforcement or investigators in relation to the commission of a crime or wrongdoing. An interrogation can occur during a criminal investigation, an arrest, or after a suspect is in police custody. Law enforcement may also conduct an interrogation in different settings, like at a police station or on the street. When an interrogation occurs while a suspect is in police custody, it is referred to as a custodial interrogation.
An interrogation is not limited to express questions asked by law enforcement officials. Courts have recognized that actions or words by law enforcement that are likely to prompt an incriminating response can also be considered part of an interrogation.
Law enforcement officials’ ability to interrogate has been heavily regulated. The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution sets the most vital limitations to interrogating suspects. While the landmark case Miranda v. Arizona creates a set of basic requirements to detain and interrogate a suspect. Some additional requirements and limitations apply depending on the subject and method of interrogation. For example, in interrogating a juvenile, law enforcement officials must follow the Fifth Amendment and Miranda requirements, but they must also comply with the special provisions of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDP).
[Last updated in April of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]