Your right to avoid making incriminating statements is guaranteed by the
U.S. Constitution, and as a result law enforcement must follow certain
procedures to obtain a confession. However, when investigating certain
crimes police a tendency to push this envelope in order to obtain a conviction.
As a result, law enforcement may obtain a “false confession”
of guilt for the crime for a number of reasons, which can place an innocent
individual behind bars while the true perpetrator goes free.
Three Types of False Confessions
False confessions happen for a number of reasons, mostly having to do with
law enforcement pressuring or coercing the suspect into admitting guilt.
Because it’s difficult to prove that this confession is false, this
evidence is often admissible to the court and used to convict the individual
who confessed. There are three primary reasons for false confessions.
Voluntary Confessions: These are often given with little to no coercion
or pressure from law enforcement. While it may seem puzzling that someone
would admit to a crime they didn’t commit under their own accord,
psychologists have suggested that the desire for notoriety or self-punishment
for previous transgressions fuels these confessions.
Compliant False Confessions: These confessions are often given under pressure
from law enforcement to put an end to the issue in exchange for an anticipated
benefit or reward of some sort, usually to end social pressure against
them. Often these individuals mistakenly believe that the short-term benefits
of a false confession outweigh the long-term consequences of an intense
and scrutinized interrogation.
Persuaded False Confessions: This is the name for confessions that are
ultimately false but given when a suspect begins to doubt his or her own
memory and admits that he or she could have actually committed the crime.
Why Do Police and Prosecutors Allow this to Happen?
Sometimes false confessions are the unintentional result of mistakes by
police investigators. Other times police use underhanded tactics to try
to obtain a confession from a suspect. Misclassification errors are the
most common cause. Misclassification occurs when police believe that a
suspect is guilty when he or she is in fact innocent. Coercion errors
are confessions that are only obtained when police try to convince the
suspect to confess, either by threatening a harsher sentence for a lack
of confession or a lesser sentence in exchange for one. Contamination
errors happen when police overtly twist or shape the suspect’s statements
into a confession. A suspect’s seemingly innocuous statement can
often be put into a context that sounds like an admission. For example,
in the movie
My Cousin Vinny, the interrogator accuses one of the defendants of murder. The defendant responds: “I killed him?” asking the investigator
a question, but the investigator treats the statement as “I killed
him.” The investigator goes on to tell the prosecutor that the defendant
admitted to killing the victim.
Berry Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping our clients fight back against criminal charges.
False confessions often occur because law enforcement either intentionally
or unintentionally pressured the suspect or put words in his or her mouth.
If you are arrested and charged with a serious crime like child sexual
assault, call Berry Law Firm today at 402.814.6550 and request your initial