You may have seen this interrogation technique if you have ever watched an episode of television’s Law & Order. The alleged bad guy is in the police station, and cops have almost enough to charge him, but not quite enough.
The subject is promised that he can go home if he reveals his role in the criminal event. The sophisticated criminal asks for a lawyer.
The young, mentally incompetent, or naïve suspects tell police what they want to hear – how the events unfolded and their role, assuming they played such a minor part that they are innocent. Then they are handcuffed and taken off to jail.
That is what the police consider a confession, and regardless of whether the officers used unfair pressure to coerce a confession, the ends justify the means.
A coerced confession may be unreliable or even false. It may have occurred after a threat was exerted on the person in custody. A coerced confession may happen after the suspect is exhausted from hours of questioning.
The suspect may be on drugs and has not slept for days. Law enforcement may pretend to be his ally in urging him to confess. Police may falsely claim they have rock-solid evidence showing the suspect’s role in the crime.
Some suspects have confessed to a crime they did not commit, believing they will gain 15 minutes of fame if they confess, whether or not they committed the crime.
Similarly, a false confession is one where the suspect is innocent. He may confess when he wants to cover for another person or as part of a plea bargain where he believes he cannot possibly receive a fair trial. Again, mental illness, developmental disabilities, lies by an interrogator, and even physical force may result in a false confession.
In some cases, the suspect complies with the lead by interrogators because he believes he can go home if he cooperates. Other times, the suspect may doubt his memory after repeated police interrogation tactics.
These suspects likely do not know that federal law protects them from incriminating themselves. The coerced or false confession may not even be legally admissible as evidence in their trial.
Regardless, there is no count on how many innocent people have been convicted and even executed after a false and coerced confession.
Federal Protections from Falsely Confessing
Plead the Fifth. Anyone watching the news over the past several years may know the term.
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects U.S. citizens from being forced to incriminate themselves, including false confessions or the result of coercion.
Often a suspect will Plead the Fifth on the witness stand. He may or may not be innocent of the charges he’s facing. Anyone can Plead the Fifth.
In court, a coerced confession cannot be presented as evidence, even if the confession is true. The U.S. Constitution assures that you do not have to testify against yourself, therefore, a forced or coerced confession is considered unreliable evidence.
If you have been arrested and confessed to a crime, Your Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyer, Jason Darley, may be able to have that evidence excluded from your case.
Suppose you were coerced or pressured to confess, even if you believe you were innocent. In that case, Mr. Darley may be able to prove police used undue influence to force a confession, making its reliability questionable.
Additionally, were you read your Miranda rights before being questioned? Miranda rights tell you that you have a right to an attorney, a right not to make any incriminating statements, a right to remain silent, and the fact that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
A failure to read your Miranda rights represents another violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Not everyone who confesses has committed a crime. Aggressive prosecutors and law enforcement have put many innocent people behind bars using these tactics. The U.S. tops the world in incarcerating its citizens.
If you have been accused of a crime and were pressured to confess, call Jason Darley (251) 441 7772 at our Mobile office to arrange a complimentary consultation to explore your options.