False and Coerced Confession FAQ
What makes a person claim responsibility for something they did not do and could it happen to you? It seems crazy to admit to a crime you didn't commit, yet people do it all the time.
They are not crazy necessarily, although they may feel that way after extensive interrogation. Defendants are coerced into confessing by authorities who are too eager to close cases at any cost. Let's take a look at confessions, and some frequently asked questions about this coercion by authorities.
Common Questions About Coerced Confessions
- Who is most often coerced? Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is evidence that the most vulnerable defendants are most commonly coerced into confessing to crimes they did not commit. A study in 2013 showed that of 125 false confessions examined, a third, or 33 percent, came from juveniles. These were not for petty crimes but for the most serious kind -- the majority of these kids admitted to murders they did not commit.
- Can the police torture people into talking? The police are of course not allowed to torture suspects and interrogations are meant to follow certain rules. But unscrupulous officers break the rules to get results, and whether there are repercussions for that depends if police brutality is discovered.
- Can I take back a coerced confession? You can move to suppress a confession from evidence if it is obtained with coercion. Whether the motion will be granted is another question. You can also appeal a negative ruling on that motion for a limited time, and there are also limited post-conviction proceedings, addressed below.
- Can I clear my name with DNA evidence? In some cases it is possible to reverse a conviction after a defendant is exonerated with forensic evidence. Signing the dotted line on coerced confession does not prove you committed a crime but it makes it easier to convict you. Similarly, DNA evidence is not always conclusive, just one of many factors that a judge or jury might consider ahead of conviction. DNA evidence exonerating you will, however, support a claim that your confession was false.
- Is there a limit to when I can clear my name? Although post-conviction proceedings are limited, and vary according to state laws, a defendant is entitled to appeal to the court again when compelling evidence indicates a conviction was false.
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