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Why are false confessions so common?

Nearly any criminal defense attorney would tell you to always have an attorney by your side if you have been detained and are being questioned by police. Too many suspects believe that because they are innocent and have nothing to hide, they also have nothing to fear. Sadly, this isn't always true.

A significant number of wrongful convictions are based on false confessions given by suspects during interrogation. The Innocence Project has said that of the hundreds of wrongfully convicted individuals it has helped exonerate through DNA evidence, approximately 30 percent were convicted because they made incriminating statements, gave false confessions or felt compelled to plead guilty.

From outside the interrogation room, giving a false confession seems foolish. So why do people do it? The reasons are more relatable than you might think. According to data gathered by the Innocence Project, innocent suspects give false confessions because:

  • They felt threatened or intimidated by police
  • They were physically assaulted by police
  • They were minors or mentally impaired and did not understand their rights (or what they were confessing to)
  • They were lied to by interrogators
  • They were exhausted after many hours of hostile interrogation tactics
  • They were threatened with far worse legal consequences if they didn't "cooperate" by confessing
  • They were under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the interrogation
  • They were told that they could go home as soon as they agreed to confess

These are some of the most common reasons that innocent individuals confess to crimes they didn't commit. Unfortunately, interrogators often go to great lengths to videotape or record the actual confession while trying just as hard to avoid showing the interrogation techniques that led up to it. By the time a jury sees it, the "confession" looks voluntary.

If you are ever detained by police, it is important to have a criminal defense attorney by your side before answering any questions. And if you are already in legal trouble because you were coerced into a false confession, please seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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