It may be difficult to understand why someone would confess to a crime they did not commit. However, the Innocence Project says false confessions happened in more than 360 wrongful convictions that have been overturned by DNA evidence.
Psychologist Saul Kassin has studied false confessions for more than 30 years. He recently told NBC News one reason people falsely confess to a crime is that many believe the justice system is against them and that they’ll be prosecuted anyway.
Contributing factors to false confessions
Researchers say there are many reasons why people falsely take responsibility for a crime, including:
- Intimidation by law enforcement, actual or imagined
- Use of force, or perceived threat of force by officers
- Suspect’s impaired reasoning ability due to exhaustion, stress, hunger, drug use or mental limitations
- Dishonest interrogation tactics, such as lying about evidence
- Fear that a failure to confess will lead to harsher punishment
Recording interrogations helps prevent false confessions
Federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, ATF and DEA are required to record all questioning of people suspected of a crime. Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia also require recording at least a portion of custodial interrogations. South Carolina is not one of them.
The Innocence Project says recording interrogations will prevent false confessions from leading to wrongful convictions. The group says recordings should be mandated when any questioning takes place after a person is in custody, which will benefit both the suspects and law enforcement.
Ask for a lawyer if you are charged with a crime
False confessions happen more frequently than most people imagine. Innocent people can break under extreme pressure from officers who employ many different tactics. Officers can even lie about evidence in order to obtain a confession.
If you are arrested, the best advice is not to say anything to officers without your lawyer in the room. An experienced criminal defense attorney here in South Carolina will protect your rights by making sure officers had probable cause to make an arrest and question the existence or validity of any evidence or eyewitness testimony they claim to have against you.