A confession, on its own, does not guarantee a conviction. Not all confessions are even admissible in court.
In general, of course, it is best if someone who has been arrested doesn’t say anything at all. But not everyone who gets arrested knows their rights.
In addition, being arrested is a stressful situation. Some people make mistakes and open the way for police to begin pressuring them into making a confession. They are allowed to lie, intimidate, and yell. The police can make a defendant sit in the same room and in the same chair for hours. They can take their sweet time about offering food, drink, or bathroom breaks. They can ask leading questions, or trick questions.
Why do false confessions happen?
Imagine how stressed out you get when you have to sit in the same place for hours while traveling. Now add a situation where someone else is in control of your basic needs, and is presenting you with false information, and is intimidating you.
Police can then make use of the suspect’s exhaustion, stress, hunger, and fear to begin using psychology to their advantage. Often, this results in false confessions. Most people have trouble believing that they would ever confess to a crime if they were not guilty of it, but you’d be surprised what can happen in an interrogation room.
In fact, 25% of wrongful conviction cases eventually overturned by DNA testing involved some manner of false confession.
When may a confession be used against a defendant?
To be admissible, the confession must be given after the defendant has both been read their rights, and has knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived those rights.
If you have been pushed into making a confession, we may be able to show the confession did not meet these criteria, and thus should be suppressed. Once suppressed, a jury will be unable to see the confession or use it as evidence.
If the confession is admitted in court, your attorney will have to undermine it by showing the rest of the evidence does not add up to support the statement, thus injecting a measure of reasonable doubt into the jury’s mind.
If it’s not possible to do that, you and your attorney may need to start discussing potential plea bargains.
Some Confessions Happen Outside of Interrogation Rooms
Sometimes police show up and start asking questions in a casual manner. They may even lead potential defendants to think that they are seen as witnesses, not as suspects.
The answers to those casual questions may in fact help the police build a case against you.
The best policy is to avoid talking to the police for any reason. Inform police that as a matter of policy you do not answer law enforcement questions without an attorney present. Then, contact a criminal defense attorney right away.
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