The History

As much background information as is practicable should be obtained and, when possible, an indication of how long any interview is likely to take. The demand characteristics of a long interview about a suspected murder will be much greater than a short interview about a shoplifting offense.

A general medical history should be taken, with inquiry made about significant illness and any prescribed medication. The detainee should be asked whether he or she has suffered from psychiatric illness, past or present, and specific inquiry should be made about alcohol and drug misuse. There should be questions about the person's educational background, because individuals with learning difficulties can be tough to recognize and inquiring about schooling may aid identification.

Ensure that the detainee has not been deprived of food or sleep, and inquire about significant social distractions (e.g., a single parent may make a false confession to obtain early release from custody and a speedy reunion with his or her child). Detainees should be asked whether they have been detained before and, if so, whether they have had unpleasant experiences while in custody in the past.

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