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Why innocent people confess to crimes

People who have never come into contact with the criminal process may find it hard to understand why anyone would falsely admit to committing a crime. After all, why suffer the legal penalties and public humiliation for something you did not do? However unlikely it sounds, solid facts, including DNA evidence, make it clear that false confessions are more common than people think.

Psychological pressure

There are two major factors that can induce false confessions: duress from interrogators or the defendant's own confusion. Duress does not necessarily mean physical mistreatment, which is illegal. Psychological duress can work just as well, especially for some types of people. Threats of a harsh sentence can get people to confess.

Unawareness of the criminal system

Ironically, inexperience with the criminal system can make you more likely to confess than a seasoned criminal. Getting arrested for the first time in your life, even on relatively minor charges, can be frightening and confusing. In this situation, an interrogator who sounds friendly and tells you that everything can be resolved if you just sign a statement has a high chance of getting a confession.

Instinct to agree with authority figures

Most people who typically follow the law and get arrested for something like a DUI instinctively respect police authority. Faced with an interrogator who insists that you are guilty, such people can have a very hard time maintaining disagreement with authority. In fact, particularly susceptible individuals may even begin to believe they actually did do something wrong.

Misunderstanding

People who sign false confessions may lack awareness of what exactly they are admitting. Law enforcement officers may use unfamiliar terms and convoluted language. Especially if you were stopped based on a minor accusation, you may not take the time to understand what you are actually being accused of.

Additional vulnerabilities

In addition to inexperience, there are some additional factors that make false confessions even more likely. People who are intoxicated or under the influence of a health condition or prescription medication may not be able to think clearly. Some people who suffer from mental or emotional illness can be easier to intimidate or confuse. Children and teenagers are especially vulnerable to the pressures of interrogation.

For all of these reasons, false confession is likelier than you think. If you are accused of a crime, you should not speak with law enforcement or sign any statements without a qualified defense attorney at your side. Retaining a lawyer as soon as possible can give you the best shot at an optimal outcome.

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