Follow TV Tropes


Bluffing the Authorities

Go To

"We never rented a house in Sedona.
We didn't see Camille the day she died.
We haven't been on our boat in some years now.
So we don't care what you found inside."
And it's our word [...]
Against theirs.
"Our Word", 36 Questions

Despite your best efforts, sometimes law enforcement notices your nefarious deeds. Maybe they heard the victim scream, or saw evidence of your crime, and now they're asking questions. This trope involves coming up with an innocent explanation for anything out of the ordinary. Sometimes the police will be on the verge of investigating further, but will receive another call that is deemed more important.

A common variation is that a victim is the one who is forced to interact with the authorities, often with the perpetrator threatening them just out of sight.

Often done by seeking Refuge in Audacity. Compare Police Brutality Gambit, in which the police are framed. Sister trope to (and may overlap with) Cut Himself Shaving, which is an attempt to provide an innocent explanation for an injury. Can also overlap with Of Corpse He's Alive, when a dead body is disguised as a living person, often to avoid suspicion. See also The Guards Must Be Crazy.


    open/close all folders 

     Audio Play  
  • 36 Questions: Judith's parents literally taught her to get out of trouble by making lies that couldn't be proven false.

     Comic Books  

  • Persepolis: The police suspect that Marjane's family has been to a party and are following them home to check for stashed wine. When they arrive, Marjane's grandma asks to enter the house first, claiming she has diabetes and needs to get her medicine urgently. Once inside she and Marjane flush all the wine down the toilet, but later find they needn't have bothered: Marjane's father merely bribed the police officer to get him to leave.

     Films — Animated  

  • Attempted by Omar, Stretch and Dizzy in Nelvana Pictures' Rock and Rule upon arriving at a Nuke York City checkpoint. The entire city is closed to inbound traffic while the electric grid is down. Omar claims that he's a lawman bringing scientists to correct the problem. The Lantern Jaw of Justice patrolman isn't fooled, and arrests all three. This actually gets them into Nuke York, though they have to be bailed out of jail.
  • The Iron Giant: When paranoiac Jerkass Kent Mansley finally convinces the US Army that the title character is loose in Rockwell, Maine, they arrive at Dean McCoppin's studio to find a huge robotic figure. Dean explains that it's leftover from a defunct garage, and he's making a modern art sculpture from it. General Rogard glares at Kent and growls, "Mansley, you idiot."

     Films — Live-Action  

  • Tommy Boy: Tommy has been driving as Richard drinks beer in the passenger seat. When cops try to pull them over Tommy, knowing that they will think he was drinking and driving, starts driving even more erratically, then pulls over and runs out of the car pretending to be attacked by bees. The officers, both of whom are allergic to bees, make a hasty retreat.
  • Collateral: Max is a taxi driver who is forced to drive a hitman around to kill several people; one of the victims falls out of a window onto his taxi, causing significant damage. When a pair of police officers notice the damage and pull him over, the hitman orders Max to talk his way out of it or he'll kill the officers. Max claims that the damage came from hitting a deer and though the officers are skeptical, they receive another call (related to the hitman's earlier murder) and let him off with a warning.
  • Die Hard: After John McClane calls the Los Angeles Police Department for help during the attack on Nakatomi Plaza, sergeant Al Powell stops by the building to check out his claim. One of the terrorists pretends to be a security guard and allays his suspicions, so Powell starts to leave. McClane has to throw a body through a window so it drops on the front of the police car to alert Powell to the fact that something is seriously wrong.
  • Shooter: When Bob Lee shows up to Sarah's house, she calls 911 but immediately has a change of heart and hangs up. When they call back per procedure, she tells them that she got scared because an animal knocked over her trash cans.
  • J.J. and Victor plan ahead for this in The Cannonball Run and its sequel.
    • In the first film, they do the race in an ambulance and try to convince a pair of New Jersey state troopers that Pamela is a patient they have to transport to California. However, they failed to anticipate one of the troopers' questions. Good thing they brought a doctor. note 
    • In the sequel, they masquerade as a pair of army men transporting contaminated material from a nuclear meltdown to Connecticut. They fail to convince the police officer who pulls them over and he decides to phone them in. The actresses dressed as nuns make him change his mind.
  • In Bound (1996), Caesar kills three people in his apartment with his gun. Alarmed by a neighbor, Police arrive at the scene shortly after to investigate. Caesar tricks them into believing that the shots came from the TV which he had on loud volume because of his (alleged) hearing impairment and the battery for his ear piece went flat. The officers believe his story and leave.
  • Young Frankenstein has a scene where a cop happens upon Dr Frankenstein and Igor in the middle of grave robbing. They cover up the bodies in their cart, but one arm sticks out awkwardly, so Frankenstein has to lean against the cart just right to convince the cop it's his arm.
  • In Little Miss Sunshine, the father, Richard, attempts this to prevent a highway patrolman from noticing that the dead body of the grandfather, Edwin, is being stored in their van.
  • A New Hope: After attacking the detention block on the Death Star, Han Solo tries to do this to an officer who calls over the intercom. He's unsuccessful.
    Han: Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, but, uh... everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine, we're all fine here now, thank you. [beat] How are you? [winces]
  • In the Bob Hope/Hedy Lamarr film My Favorite Spy, Hope and Lamarr get arrested on purpose in order to escape some gangsters by pretending to be a married couple having a knock-down drag-out fight. Once in the police car and safe from the gangsters, they convince the cops to let them go by pretending to make up with each other in the most nauseating way possible.
  • Clue: When The Cop becomes understandably suspicious of the goings-on at the mansion, Mr. Green is commandeered to give a "tour" while the others set up the corpses to make it look as if they're still alive. The results are hilarious, partly because of the cop and Green's reactions to Mrs. White and Mr. Boddy apparently making out and Colonel Mustard romancing the dead cook (while poor Mrs. Peacock is stuck on her other side on a window ledge). Professor Plum and Miss Scarlet get off the lightest since they get to make out while pretending the motorist is "dead drunk" who will have "a long black car" sent to take him home.
  • Catch Me If You Can: After Hanratty tracks down Frank and bursts into his apartment, Frank pretends to be member of a competing law enforcement agency who got there just before Hanratty did and already made the arrest. He then leaves with some of his most important equipment under the guise of securing evidence; Hanratty realizes the truth only moments after Frank has made his getaway.
  • Blue Streak: Logan's partner discovers that his police credentials and record are falsified. When confronted, Logan admits that they are fake but says that they were faked by internal affairs, who sent him to investigate misconduct.


  • In the Dresden Files book White Night, Harry breaks into Thomas Raith's apartment to look for information and is quickly accosted by security. He throws them off by playing the part of a clingy boyfriend who's furious at not being on the list of approved visitors.
  • In the Hercule Poirot story The Stymphalian Birds, an English diplomat accidentally kills a young woman's jealous husband while on vacation in Central Europe. The woman's mother knows how things happen around there and is certain that everything can be smoothed over with enough bribery, including a police officer who came by the hotel. However, it's all a scam (including the husband's "death", who was played by the mother): banking on the fact that the diplomat didn't speak the language, she had called the cop about missing jewelry.

     Live-Action TV  

  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "City on the Edge of Forever". After Kirk and Spock go back in time to 1930's New York City they're about to steal some clothing to replace their Enterprise uniforms but meet a police officer and have to explain Spock's pointed Vulcan ears. The scene ends with Spock nerve-pinching the officer and the pair running away, which should tell you about how well that went.
  • Breaking Bad
    • Gus Fring is questioned by the police about the murder of his onetime criminal underling Gale Boetticher after trace evidence showed that Gus had been at Gale's house not long before his death. Gus, being The Chessmaster and a Villain with Good Publicity, spins the story and claims that after years of not talking, Gale had contacted Gus recently, invited him over, and tried to get him to invest in something that seemed shady. Gus refused, and then read about the murder several days later. Because Gus has such good publicity and is so methodical about covering his tracks, everyone except Hank buys it.
    • The IRS starts to catch on to Ted's cooking of the books at Beneke Fabricators and sends an agent to investigate. Skyler, knowing that a full scale audit would bring her own finances under investigation, poses as a Brainless Beauty who was hired for reasons other than her accounting skills. The ruse is successful; although Beneke is hit with a big bill for back taxes, the IRS believes that any inconsistencies were due to incompetence rather than fraud.
  • Once Upon a Time
    • Sheriff Swan finds out that the mayor (previously known as the Evil Queen) has embezzled public funds in "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree." Swan confronts the mayor, but she turns it around by claiming she took the funds to fund a playground for the school without bringing attention to herself. This ultimately ends up doing wonders for the mayor's reputation, just as she intended, since she sent the informant that made Sheriff Swan aware of the funds in the first place.
    • After the Wicked Witch is presumed dead in the season 3 finale, the sheriff, Prince Charming, immediately assumes Rumplestiltskin is behind the murder. Thankfully, Rumple has given his wife, Belle, a knife that forces to tell the truth. She uses the knife and under its power, Rumple reasserts his innocence and suggests the Witch managed to retain a bit of her magic and used it to destroy herself to activate a curse. His bluff? The knife was a fake Rumple planted so he could gain his wife's trust without having to change his nefarious ways.
  • In The Suite Life of Zack & Cody episode "Cody Goes to Camp", when London is driving slowly with Zack, Maddie, and Muriel on the interstate, they get pulled over by a cop and is given a warning because London is still learning how to drive. But when Muriel starts driving really fast and they get pulled over by the same cop, Muriel and London makes up the excuse that Zack recently ate some bad chili cheese dogs and he needs to go to the hospital which the cop believes because this happened before.


  • In the Show Of Hands song "Transported", the protagonists have car troubles while hauling a trailer full of stolen sheep, and are approached by a cop. One pretends he's calling a tow truck and instead phones in a report of an armed robbery at a nearby gas station. The officer is called away and they escape.

     Web Original  

     Western Animation  

  • Family Guy
    • Played with in one episode. When police officer Joe comes to the door, Stewie, a fugitive, holds a gun to Brian. He initially tells Brian to say that everything is fine, but quickly begins using the situation to make him insult Joe. Joe still doesn't suspect anything though.
    • In another episode Stewie and Lois, out with a dead body, bluff a cop who happens across them by Stewie climbing into the man's suit, his head sticking out the collar, and pretending to be an alive person who just happens to by lying down on a bridge.
  • In Bob's Burgers, season 4, "My Big Fat Greek Bob", when Bob is helping a frat house, the Betas, prank another frat house, the Alphas, just before they are about to leave in the car, a campus police shows up. Bob gives an excuse that he's a professor teaching a class on creative driving which the campus police completely buys.
  • The Simpsons: Parodied in this encounter between Mafia boss Fat Tony and Chief Wiggum.
    [Fat Tony approaches the lake with a bag with feet sticking out of it]
    Chief Wiggum: Sorry, no dumping in the lake.
    Fat Tony: Fine. I will go and put my [air quotes] "yard trimmings" in a car compactor. [Leaves]
    Lou: You know, Chief, I think he had a dead body in there.
    Chief Wiggum: I thought that too, right up until he said "yard trimmings." You gotta learn to listen, Lou.

     Real Life  

  • Convicted murderer Richard Lee McNair, while a fugitive after escaping from prison, was able to convince a police officer who was specifically looking for him that he was just a jogger. This is despite the fact that he had no identification, gave the officer two separate aliases, and matched the description of the fugitive that was radioed to the officer during through their ten minute interaction (see the conversation here).
  • In a tragic example, Konerak Sinthasomphone, one of Jeffrey Dahmer's victims, escaped from Dahmer's apartment while Dahmer was out buying beer. Konerak was naked and disoriented, having previously been drugged by Dahmer, yet the police accepted Dahmer's claim that the 14-year-old boy was his 19-year old homosexual lover and let him take Konerak back to his apartment and murder him. On the other hand, it may not be bluffing the authorities so much as the authorities looking the other way so they would not have to get involved with a case involving a homosexual lover's dispute.


Video Example(s):


Creative Driving Class

Just when Bob and the Betas are about to leave, the campus police shows up. Bob tells the police he's teaching a class on "creative driving", and he believes it.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / BluffingTheAuthorities

Media sources: