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Why people make false confessions to crimes they didn’t commit

It may seem unusual, but people in New York and around the country sometimes make false confessions to crimes they didn’t commit. There are a variety of reasons why this may happen. A false confession happens when a criminal offense has been tacked onto someone who law enforcement believes is the perpetrator.

What is a false confession?

A false confession is a statement given to law enforcement by a person who has been brought in for questioning stating that they committed a crime they did not commit. There are certain reasons behind false confessions. Scientists who study criminal law have determined that there are three chief reasons, which include the following:

  • Voluntary: With a voluntary false confession, the person knows they are giving a statement that is untrue, yet they want to claim responsibility for the crime.
  • Coerced-compliant: A person who has confessed to a crime they didn’t commit when they were coerced. This type of false confession occurs when law enforcement uses unethical or even illegal tactics to force it out of a person. They may resort to psychological or even physical abuse, forcing the individual to falsely confess so that the torment can stop. People who falsely confess often believe they are telling law enforcement what they want to hear.
  • Coerced-internalized: A coerced-internalized false confession is made when a person has not committed the crime but feels a sense of guilt that they confess.

Can a false confession be used as evidence?

Legally, a false confession that is made under duress, through coercion, cannot be used as evidence. If a person is arrested and charged with a crime and makes a false confession due to coercion, they have a good defense. Many people who have been falsely convicted and ultimately exonerated of a crime were denied when seeking to prevent their false statement from being used during trial.

Coercion and forced confessions happen all the time as a practice with police. While physical coercion is much less frequent, there are often allegations of psychological coercion, threats or false promises to get people to confess.

Who can you turn to for help?

An attorney can help you when you have been arrested after making a false confession. If you did not commit the crime, your attorney can protect your rights and build a strong defense.