For years, the practice of forced confessions was used to offer some sort of relief to cases that appeared to be complex in nature. The justice systems in quite a significant number of states conspired with law enforcement to convict suspects who were deemed defenseless or who did not invoke their rights. With the advancement of human rights legislation and conventional justice systems, the practice of forced confessions is gradually being brought under regulation.
All things taken into consideration, forced confessions in many justice systems assume a common practice where the victim is either tortured or forced to give false confession under some form of pressure. A recent report from the Chicago Sun Times illustrates why coerced confessions can be costly not only on the victims but also detrimental to the legal system.
The illegal detention of Gabriel Solache and Arturo DeLeon-Reyes for almost two decades in prison without sound evidence from the prosecutor, for example, demonstrates how the justice system can impact innocent victims. More importantly, lessons from this case have also exposed loopholes in the legal system.
Why do People Give False Confessions?
People confess for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, people are obliged to think that by confessing they are making things easier for themselves and for law enforcement. They believe that such confessions will offer them reprieve should they be convicted or charged with a crime. This perception has led law enforcers to take advantage of innocent victims.
While such methods, including the Reid tactics, have proven valuable in apprehending suspected criminals, they are without doubt unlawful. Forced confessions can be elicited using the following tactics:
- Threats (e.g. harsh sentences)
- Pressure from law enforcers
- Psychological impairment
- Fear of being hurt or violence
Types of False Confessions
False confessions are in most cases low-key psychological processes that are aimed at forcing a person into admissibility. For instance, a suspect may be threatened or offered a promise of leniency in exchange for a confession. Many suspects fall victim to false confessions as a result of these psychological loopholes. Various studies show that false confessions fall under two distinct categories:
- Voluntary confession: This form of false confession occurs in the absence of external elicitation and pressures, especially from law enforcement. In a significant number of cases, a voluntary confession occurs in the absence of law enforcement officers. People who fall victim to this form of confession usually do it at their own wish. Despite the fact that such confessions may be used in a trial, they are treated as skeptical confessions by police officers.
- Persuaded/Police-induced confessions: These are the most common types of confessions that are preferred by law enforcement units since they employ quite a unique set of tactics (such as the Reid tactic) to coerce a victim into admission. For instance, a common practice in a number of police interrogations is leading the innocent victim to doubt his or her memory or conscious judgment. A good number of persuaded confessions involve scenes of psychological confusion where the victim is forced to contradict him or herself, thus giving the interrogator an upper hand and a chance to build a strong case based on the victim’s cognitive errors.
In conclusion, false confessions are considered to be the most incriminating form of false evidence. The fact that a false confession provides an avenue to convict someone even before trial is in itself a crime. For this reason it is advisable to seek immediate legal advice from expert attorneys at law when faced with criminal allegations.
If you are charged or accused of a criminal offense, do not admit the allegations without the presence of an attorney. For more details reach David Freidberg, Attorney at Law, at 312-560-7100.
(image courtesy of Kristina Flour)