Were you coerced into confessing something you didn’t do?
When a person accused of a crime makes a confession, the general assumption is that it is an open and shut case. In reality, however, it is not always so simple. False confessions occur far more regularly than many people are aware, in many cases generating a lifetime of woe for those who make them. According to the Innocence Project, an advocacy group that offers assistance to wrongly convicted prisoners, false confessions were involved in more than 25% of U.S. convictions that were later overturned by DNA evidence. Among children and teenagers, false confessions occur even more frequently than in the general population. Over the past 25 years, according to an article published recently by the Wall Street Journal, false confessions played a role in 38% of exonerations in cases involving juvenile defendants. Experts on the subject point to a number of different factors that may make some individuals more likely to confess to crimes they did not commit. A few examples include:
- Intimidation by law enforcement, whether real or perceived.
- Law enforcement’s use of force during interrogation, or a perceived threat of such force.
- Deceptive, misleading or manipulative interrogation tactics, such as false statements about the existence of incriminating evidence.
- Fear that failure to confess will result in harsher consequences.
Compromised reasoning ability is another factor that can greatly affect the likelihood that someone will make a false confession when charged with a crime. In some cases, decreased reasoning ability may occur as a result of the interrogation process itself, for instance if it causes the individual to experience extreme exhaustion, fear or hunger. In other cases, the suspect’s reasoning ability may be impaired by drugs or alcohol. Mental disabilities or lack of education are also believed to increase the risk of false confessions. People who confess to crimes they did not commit often say they felt it was the only way to make the interrogation stop, and many say they thought they would be able to prove their innocence at a later time. Unfortunately, this can be an extremely difficult task to accomplish. As difficult as it may be to imagine for anyone who has never found themselves in that position, false confessions can and do occur with surprising regularity. Because anyone could end up being questioned by police, simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it is important for everyone to be aware of their legal rights and take steps to exercise them if the situation should ever arise. One of the best ways to guard against the risk of false confession and wrongful conviction is to invoke your constitutional rights in the event that you are arrested or questioned by law enforcement. Not only do you have a right to remain silent – meaning that you do not have to respond to police questioning – but you also have a right to have an attorney present. A skilled criminal defense attorney can be a powerful advocate on your behalf during all stages of investigation and prosecution, and will see to it that you are treated fairly. In some cases, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate with prosecutors to have the charges against you dropped or dismissed. If your case goes to trial, an attorney will work hard to represent your interests and advocate for the best possible outcome. Call Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney Gary Gerson today if you feel you have been coerced into confessing to a crime with which you had little involvement or didn’t commit altogether at 412-219-6875.