While the judicial system is designed to protect the innocent until proven guilty, many steps in the process are flawed. Certain factors, including false confessions, may result in the wrongful incarceration of innocent people.
When a judge or jury hears a case, any evidence presented is taken into account when making the final decision. This holds true even if the judge and jury are not aware of how the evidence was obtained. In fact, law enforcement may obtain confessions illegally, which could be used against you in a criminal case.
A look at the facts
According to the Innocence Project, more than 360 criminal cases have been overturned after evidence showed those convicted were actually innocent of committing a crime. In most of these cases, some type of false confession was involved. New York is one of several states that require law enforcement to tape all interrogation processes.
A look at false confessions
Why would anyone confess to a crime they did not commit? There are several components involved with false confessions. Law enforcement officers may use certain tactics to prompt people to confess to something they did not necessarily do. These tactics include the following:
- Threatening harm to the individual, their loved ones or something important to them
- Intimidating the suspect
- Using strategies that will cause the suspect to confess, such as hunger, exhaustion and extreme stress
- Posing fear to the suspect as to what will happen to them if they do not confess
- Using the suspects educational and/or mental limitations against them.
For instance, young people and/or people who do not understand how the judicial system works may be unaware of their rights. They may forfeit their right to an attorney or their right to remain silent, as they do not know that is an option.