Why would anyone confess to a crime they didn’t commit?
This question comes up whenever the topic of false confessions arises. At first glance, it may strike you as crazy for anyone to do this. You may think it never happens.
In fact, researchers have found that false confessions happen more often than you might think in criminal defense cases. Many wrongful convictions have their origins in false confessions.
What’s behind false confessions?
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides all of us with the right to be free from forced self-incrimination. From this constitutional right stems your right to remain silent when you have been detained by the police.
Many of us are somewhat familiar with this right Oand the other rights listed in the Miranda warnings, as heard in innumerable television shows. Police are required to recite these warnings when arresting people.
However, most of us aren’t as familiar with these rights and their limits as police officers are. When we are pulled over or questioned by police, we may be nervous, intimidated or otherwise unsure of how we should exercise these rights. Police know this, and they often take advantage of a person’s confusion in order to get them to disclose evidence.
In some cases, this situation can lead to police questioning suspects for many hours. Police aren’t required to tell the truth during these sessions, so they may lie and tell you that they already have all the evidence they need, and now is the time to tell them what really happened. Police may present this as a chance for you to redeem yourself, but instead they use it as a chance to make sure you are convicted.
According to the Innocence Project, an advocacy group, the average time people are interrogated before they falsely confess is 16 hours. After that long, people can become so tired out that they will say anything just to end to the interrogation.
What can you do if you have falsely confessed?
If you have been put in this terrible situation and confessed to a crime you did not commit, it’s hard to backtrack. However, if, with professional help, you can show that your confession was made in violation of your constitutional rights, you may be able to get it suppressed from evidence.