Coerced confessions are a type of false confession that stems from overbearing or overly forceful law enforcement conduct.
Legally, citizens must give admission under their own free will for the confession to qualify as evidence during a trial. But coercive tactics and abuse can lead to false confessions and cause innocent people to suffer penalties for crimes they did not commit.
What Constitutes Coerced Confessions
By definition, coerced confessions are involuntary or false confessions given by a suspect. They usually result from overbearing or forceful law enforcement conduct. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), almost 30% of people admit to crimes they did not commit.
A suspect may falsely admit to a crime in response to physical abuse or psychological manipulation from law enforcement officials. They may also do so in an attempt to secure a plea bargain or put an end to an exhausting, demanding, or uncomfortable interrogation.
There are three types of coerced confessions: voluntary, compliant, and persuaded.
Voluntary False Confessions
Suspects with psychological disorders can suffer a warped sense of reality, causing them to admit to a crime they did not commit voluntarily. The condition can cause a person to believe that the incrimination will bring them fame, or they may genuinely believe that they committed the crime.
In addition, able-minded people may give voluntary false confessions in an attempt to protect another party.
Compliant False Confessions
Compliant false confessions are when a suspect confesses in an attempt to end a painful interrogation. Suspects make the confessions based on the belief that it will release them from custody or result in less severe punishment.
Persuaded False Confessions
A persuaded false confession is when forceful questioning causes the suspect to doubt his or her own memory. Law enforcement persuades the suspect that since they had reason to commit the crime, they likely did. Police may also attempt to convince a suspect that he or she committed the crime but has no recollection of the event.
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What Is Considered Coercive Behavior?
It is critical for a suspect to understand what types of law enforcement behaviors are permissible and which are not.
For example, a police officer may befriend a suspect or use deception to get a person to admit to a crime. However, using physical or psychological abuse is not allowed and is considered coercive behavior.
Using Physical Abuse During Interrogation
Law enforcement officials are prohibited from using physical force while questioning a suspect. Examples of physical abuse in a coerced confession include:
If police officers use any of these forceful tactics to get a confession, a criminal defense lawyer can claim coercion and get the evidence thrown out.
Applying Psychological Abuse to Suspects
Psychological abuse during an interrogation includes:
- Playing mental or emotional tricks on the suspect
- Promising false leniency in exchange for a confession
- Threatening a harsher penalty if the suspect does not confess
- Withholding food, water, or sleep in an attempt to wear a suspect down
Psychological abuse tactics are most commonly used when the suspect has cognitive disabilities or is a juvenile offender.
Can Lawyers Prevent Coerced Confessions?
For a prosecutor to use a confession as evidence during a trial, they must prove that the defendant voluntarily gave it. Prosecutors do this by evaluating the totality of the circumstances. A criminal defense lawyer can either step in to demonstrate that the confession was acquired illegally or prevent a victim from giving a coerced confession during the interrogation.
A legal expert can be (and should always be) present during an interrogation. Law enforcement will be less inclined to apply psychological or physical abuse tactics with a qualified attorney in the room. The legal expert will keep law enforcers in line and prevent them from taking advantage of a suspect.
If an individual already confessed, a criminal defense lawyer can submit a suppression motion that stops a coerced confession from being used as evidence. For example, if your lawyer can prove that officials used illegal or unreasonable tactics during your interrogation, a court may not be able to use your confession as evidence during a criminal trial.
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Criminal Lawyers Protect You from a Coerced Confession
Whether you are facing criminal charges or believe you are the victim of a coerced confession, a defense attorney can help you secure justice. A criminal defense lawyer stands up to law enforcement and protects citizens from making false confessions. Contact the legal experts at Simmrin Law Group to learn how we hold law enforcers responsible for coercive tactics.