False Confessions

There are only 24 states that require police interrogations to be recorded from start to end, and Florida is not one of them.  Not recording the entirety of a police interrogation is a problem, especially considering that in over 25% of wrongful convictions that have been overturned by DNA evidence, the Defendant made false confessions to law enforcement during the interrogation. 

Why do people make false confessions?  

Most people believe that they would most certainly not confess to a crime that they did not commit.  However, studies show that under the conditions of an interrogation, false confessions are a huge problem that cannot be overlooked. 

Law enforcement officers often give details to crimes leading suspects in the direction that they wish him or her to go.  For example, the officer may tell the suspect that he knows he used a shovel.  He knows he used a shovel to hit him.  And he hit him in the head.  He hit him in the head over and over.  This goes on for hours, wearing the suspect down.  Finally, after hours off camera, the suspect knows all of the details of the offense.  Then the suspect cries out yes!  Then the camera is turned on and he gives the entire narrative after it has been fed to him. 

Confessions are unreliable.  Children and people with mental disabilities are especially easy to manipulate and are susceptible to false confessions.  In addition, impaired mental states because of drugs or alcohol, or mental illness also contribute to false confessions. 

People don’t realize that it is perfectly legal for law enforcement officers to use deception, to outright lie, to obtain a confession.  Suspects may be told things like, we know you did it.  We already have the forensic evidence to prove it.  We have your fingerprints.  We have the weapon.  The list goes on.  None of this has to be true.  After hours of hearing that law enforcement has all of this evidence against you, it makes a person susceptible to give a false confession. Some are told they will be convicted and if they confess their sentence will be more lenient.  Law enforcement has no control over sentencing or over plea deals.  Those decisions are left to judges and state attorneys.

People confess to crimes they did not commit because of duress, coercion, intoxication, mental impairment, ignorance of the law, fear of violence, threat of a harsh sentence, misunderstanding of the situation, and much more.

Recording interrogations, from the very start to the very end, can prevent these types of issues from arising.  Disputes over how suspects were treated, whether confessions were coerced, etc., will be prevented.  If you are a Floridian, I encourage you to call or write your state senators and tell them to pass Senate Bill 1220, requiring that all custodial interrogations be recorded in their entirety.

If you have been charged with a crime, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer by your side.  Contact Heather Bryan Law today online, or call 863-825-5309 for your consultation.

Sources:

http://floridainnocence.org/content/?page_id=70

https://www.innocenceproject.org/causes/false-confessions-admissions/

http://jaapl.org/content/37/3/332

 

9.0Heather Bryan