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Perceptions of custody: Similarities and disparities among police, judges, social psychologists, and laypeople.
Law and Human Behavior  (IF3.795),  Pub Date : 2021-06-01, DOI: 10.1037/lhb0000448
Fabiana Alceste,Saul M Kassin

OBJECTIVE Custody is a legal state that requires police to Mirandize suspects and, in some jurisdictions, to record their interrogation. The present study compared the custody perceptions of police, judges, social psychologists, and laypeople. HYPOTHESES We predicted that (a) high-custody vignettes would elicit less perceived freedom than low-custody vignettes; (b) police and judges would see these situations as less custodial relative to social psychologists and laypeople; (c) these differences would arise mostly in ambiguous vignettes; and (d) participants in general would perceive suspects as objectively having more freedom to leave than they subjectively feel they have. METHOD Police officers (n = 223), trial judges (n = 219), social psychologists (n = 228), and laypeople (n = 205) read a vignette of a police-suspect encounter that presented high-, ambiguous, or low-levels of custody and indicated their perceptions of the suspect's freedom to leave. RESULTS Participants perceived the most freedom in the low-custody vignettes, followed by ambiguous and high-custody vignettes, and all groups differed significantly from each other (ηp2 = .39). Police and judges overestimated how free they thought the suspect would feel compared to social psychologists and laypeople, who did not differ from each other (ηp2 = .085). Participants in general saw the suspect as objectively freer than they thought he felt, and themselves as feeling freer than they believed the suspect did (ηp2 = .35). Police defined a "reasonable person" as someone who is mentally stable, whereas judges were more likely to cite a person of average intelligence. CONCLUSION Despite the assumption that custody can be defined by the effects of objective circumstances on the reasonable person, results revealed substantial variation of perceptions between police and judges on the one hand, and social psychologists and laypeople on the other. As a result, legal safeguards triggered by custodial interrogation may be inconsistently applied to real suspects. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).