Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of interrogation

Related terms

Definition of interrogation


  • IPA: /ɪnˌter.əˈɡeɪ.ʃən/, SAMPA: /In.tEr.@"gEI.S@n/
  • Audio (US) [?]
  • Rhymes: -eɪʃən


interrogation (plural interrogations)

  1. The act of interrogating or questioning; examination by questions; inquiry.
  2. A question put; an inquiry.
  3. A point, mark, or sign, thus ?, indicating that the sentence with which it is connected is a question. It is used to express doubt, or to mark a query. Called also interrogation point.

Usage notes

  • Preposition under is generally used for the person or matter that is being investigated; Johnny is under interrogation about the last night's events.

Further reading

Interrogation (also called questioningor interpellation) is interviewing as commonly employed by officers of the police, military, and Intelligence agencies with the goal of extracting a confession or obtaining information. Subjects of interrogation are often the suspects, victims, or witnesses of a crime. Interrogation may involve a diverse array of techniques, ranging from developing a rapport with the subject to outright torture.

Interrogation techniques

There are multiple techniques employed in interrogation including deception, torture, increasing suggestibility, and the use of mind-altering drugs.
  • Suggestibility
    A person's suggestibility is how willing they are to accept and act on suggestions by others. Interrogators seek to increase a subject's suggestibility. Methods used to increase suggestibility may include moderate sleep deprivation, exposure to constant white noise, and using GABAergic drugs such as sodium amytal or sodium thiopental.
  • Deception
    Deception can form an important part of effective interrogation. In the United States, there is no law or regulation that forbids the interrogator from lying about the strength of their case, from making misleading statements or from implying that the interviewee has already been implicated in the crime by someone else.
  • Good cop/bad cop
  • Pride-and-ego down
  • Reid technique
    The Reid technique is a trademarked interrogation technique widely used by law enforcement agencies in North America. The technique (which requires interrogators to watch the body language of suspects to detect deceit) has been criticized for being difficult to apply across cultures and eliciting false confessions from innocent people.
  • Torture
    Interrogations may involve torture. When torture is employed in interrogation, the first thing the interrogator typically does is to speculate on the type of information s/he would like to extract from the subject. This assists the interrogator in creating a benchmark that the subject must meet in order to end the painful or uncomfortable conditions that occur in torture.

United Kingdom

British legislation that applies to interrogation activities include:

  • Human Rights Act 1998
  • Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
  • Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001
  • Terrorism Act 2006

All police officers are trained in interview techniques during basic training, further training in detailed interviewing or specialist interviewing is received in specialist or advanced courses, such as criminal investigation, fraud investigation or child protection.

Military interrogation takes two forms, Tactical Questioning or Detailed Interviewing. Tactical Questioning is the initial screening of detainees, Detailed Interviewing takes place is the more advanced questioning of subjects.

Training for all personnel engaged in both TQ and DI takes place at the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre, Chicksands.

British military personnel were found to have misused a number of techniques during the detention of suspects in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s. Investigations into these techniques resulted in the publication of policy directives that prohibited the use of hooding, stress positions or wall-standing, noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and drink.

During the early stages of Operation Telic in Iraq during 2003 and 2004 some infantry units have been found to have applied these techniques in contravention of standing orders.

The use of torture is explicitly prohibited however Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have accused officers of the British Intelligence and Security Services of being at least complicit in the extraction of information from subjects under torture by second parties.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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