According to The Innocence Project, approximately 25 percent of convicted criminals that were exonerated falsely confessed to the crime that imprisoned them. How can this happen? As we discussed in the last section, the easy answer is because the police have developed a systematic interrogation process that mentally, emotionally, and physically breaks down suspects until they feel obligated to confess. In this section, we will focus more on this gray area of the law and why obtaining a confession (even if it is false) is so crucial to law enforcement. Remember, if you have been accused of a crime, it’s best to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced federal defense attorney in Tampa who can offer you aggressive defense against a bogus accusation.
Confessions are Crucial
Although the police always want to obtain as much physical evidence from a crime scene as they can, and witness statements can only further this cause by helping police develop a succinct storyline, law enforcement’s main goal is to seek a confession from a suspect. A confession is arguably the most effective evidence that can be used against a defendant when prosecuted. Although a confession alone isn’t complete proof of guilt, it certainly can help the prosecution develop a motive for why the crime was allegedly committed by the suspect.
The Gray Area of the Law
In order to obtain that valuable piece of evidence, the confession, police are willing to utilize a variety of tactics that are both legal along with some techniques that are illegal. For example, many traditional interrogation tactics are legal, including placing the suspect in an interrogation room, standing extremely close to the suspect, talking in a threatening tone, among other intimidation tactics and mind games. However, the police also engage in some behavior that is illegal. For example, any form of physical abuse against the suspect (slapping, pushing, striking) or other torture techniques (waterboarding, hypothermia, sleep deprivation) are illegal. Other illegal behavior includes refusing to contact the suspect’s attorney (if requested) or promising some form of lesser punishment or plea deal that doesn’t exist if they confess to the crime. There are many other gray areas of the law depending on the case.
Interrogations should always be recorded in their entirety. Unfortunately, because of the secretive nature of most interrogations, laws that were broken during this process remain unknown to the general public including the jury deciding the verdict. From the police’s perspective, as long as the final interrogation tape includes a confession, they have achieved their goal.
For more information on false confession techniques, please read section three.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.