It can be hard to imagine why someone might admit to a crime they did not commit. However, 27% of exoneration cases involve false or coerced confessions. Confessions are often used as solid evidence of guilt, although criminal defendants are guaranteed the right not to incriminate themselves. Even if they are true, confessions obtained by police coercion are not admissible in court.
A person’s right to due process is at risk if they were coerced into making a confession. Many innocent people have been wrongfully condemned after giving a confession under duress. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about protecting yourself from coerced confessions.
What Is a Coerced Confession?
A coerced confession is a confession that was not freely given by the suspect but rather forced out of them by overbearing law enforcement. Due to duress or other forms of pressure, the confession was not freely made and is, therefore, involuntary.
For instance, a suspect may be promised leniency or release from interrogation in exchange for a confession. However, in reality, even if the suspect admits their guilt, they will not be released. Police departments often use this bait-and-switch tactic to get a suspect to confess.
Illegal police conduct and coercion can lead to false confessions from suspects, who may admit to crimes they did not commit.
Here are the types of false confessions under criminal law:
A suspect’s false confession is considered to be voluntary if it was made under no pressure from the suspect’s loved ones or the authorities. They may confess to the crime for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- They seek out distress on an emotional level.
- They are trying to protect the real culprit.
- They have a mental illness.
When interrogated, a suspect with a mental illness can make a voluntary false confession. People with mental illness often have a warped perception of the world around them and may not understand the reality of the situation.
When a defendant falsely confesses during interrogation, it’s usually because the ordeal has become too unpleasant or painful for them to continue. Accused persons may make a false, compliant confession because they think:
- If they confess to the police, they may be able to get out of jail faster.
- A lesser sentence may result from a confession, regardless of whether it is a truthful one.
After being questioned by authorities for so long, a suspect may begin to have doubts about their own experience and memories, leading to a false confession. It may be easier for police to coerce a false confession out of a suspect who has lost faith in their thoughts.
Gaslighting can also be used to get someone to make a false confession. When someone uses gaslighting techniques, they are causing the victim to doubt their beliefs, memory, or even sanity.
To learn more about how a police officer may try to get a false confession out of you using the above methods, contact The Pagan Law Firm today.
What Behavior Is Allowed and Not Allowed From a Police Officer to Get a Suspect to Confess?
It is crucial for a suspect to know what kinds of interactions with law enforcement are appropriate and what is illegal.
Physical Vs. Psychological
When interrogating a suspect, law enforcement officers are not allowed to use excessive force of any kind. Some forms of physical abuse and police brutality that can lead to a confession under duress are:
A police officer playing psychological games can also lead to a confession under duress. Examples of mental abuse during questioning include:
- Attempting to manipulate the suspect’s thoughts or feelings.
- Offering false hope of leniency in exchange for an admission.
- Threatening the suspect with a harsher punishment if they don’t confess.
- Depriving a suspect of basic needs like food, water, and rest in an effort to break them down.
Police officers frequently resort to psychological abuse techniques when dealing with suspects who are either mentally disabled or juvenile offenders. If police officers employ any of these coercive tactics to obtain a confession, a criminal defense attorney can argue coercion and have the evidence suppressed.
Common Interrogation Techniques By Law Enforcement Officers
False or coerced confessions can be obtained through many problematic interrogation methods. You may be familiar with some of their methods from depictions of police work in movies and on television.
When interviewing you in custody, police officers can give you false information. If you misinterpret their words and confess to a crime, you risk having what you say used against you. The following are some examples of the common lies they use:
- They might claim to have proof against you.
- They may tell you that anything you say is not being recorded, even if they haven’t turned off the camera or microphone.
- They can say the prosecutor will treat you harshly if you don’t cooperate with them.
- They can try to convince you to confess by downplaying the gravity of the offense.
- They may promise to assist you or to improve the situation for you if you come clean.
- They may threaten to have your loved ones apprehended and thrown in jail.
Claiming to Have Proof
The police may say they have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a crime. They might say that your DNA was discovered at the scene of the crime or that a witness identified you, even though they know those are lies. However, it’s important to distinguish this from the practice of planting fabricated evidence, where they go a step further and turn their lies into reality.
Getting Your DNA
If law enforcement does not have a warrant to legally require you to give your DNA, they may try to deceive you into providing it nonetheless. Obtaining your DNA might be as simple as offering you a beverage, cigarette, or snack.
Law enforcement officers may attempt to intimidate you psychologically and verbally. They may try to frighten you by shouting at you or throwing papers. The officers could also interrogate you for several hours or even the whole night to get you to give in and confess.
Authorities might ask you questions designed to get you to say what they want to hear. In the heat of the moment, or to prove your innocence, you can give the authorities what they want by making statements that can be used against you.
The law enforcement officer questioning you may try to get you to confess by saying that another person who was detained or brought in with you already came clean. However, it may not be the case. If you give in to this pressure and confess, the evidence could be used against you.
Lie Detector Test
You can be persuaded to take a polygraph test as proof of your innocence. If you provide your consent (which you are under no obligation to do), they may inform you that you didn’t pass even if you did. When this happens, the police might try to pressure or coerce you into making a confession.
Good Cop/Bad Cop
You may also be familiar with the practice of being questioned by a pair of police officers, as depicted in different media. The good cop will act as if they are your buddy, while the bad cop will use intimidating or harsh questioning techniques. The good cop might pretend to be on your side once the bad cop has left the room, encouraging you to explain your version of events.
Obstruction of Justice
Officers may tell you that, by not confessing, you risk being accused of obstructing justice. This is false. You have the right to remain silent in the presence of law enforcement.
Threats or Appeals to Friendship
Confessions have become inadmissible in the past because the suspect was threatened with losing their children or government subsidies if they did not confess. Similarly, if the interrogating police and the arrested individual were friends, a request to come clean to protect the officer’s career or reputation will invalidate the confession.
If at least one individual in your cell agrees to have their discussions recorded, members of law enforcement are permitted to do so. Avoid talking about the alleged offense you committed with your cellmates. On top of that, your cellmate could be bribed by the authorities to give evidence against you.
Speak with an experienced police misconduct lawyer today to discuss your case. We have a proven track record of success and will fight tirelessly for your rights.
Are Coerced Confessions Admissible in Court?
Confessions obtained under coercion are not admissible in court, regardless of their truthfulness, according to the Constitution and established case law. The Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution and related state regulations specifically prohibit the use of coercion to obtain a confession.
Your rights to remain silent and to due process in a criminal proceeding are violated if you are subjected to coercive tactics designed to elicit a confession from you.
To figure out if a confession was made voluntarily or not, the court has to look at the whole situation, including what the defendant is like and how the interrogation went. The “totality of the circumstances” test is used to make that determination. Important considerations include:
- The suspect’s educational background
- The suspect’s age
- The suspect’s emotional and psychological health
- The suspect’s intelligence and mental capacity
- The absence of legal counsel or advice concerning constitutional and civil rights
- The lack of family
- The period of confinement
- The repetitive and drawn-out nature of the interrogation
- The deprivation of basic needs, including food or sleep, as a form of physical punishment
- The use of deception, threats, or promises by police
- The suspect’s knowledge of the legal system
How to Protect Yourself From Coerced Confessions By Police Officers
The good news is that you can defend yourself by knowing your rights and being prepared for the tactics police may use. Under the Fifth Amendment, you have the right to refuse to answer any questions that could lead to your incrimination. If the police interrogate you, you have the right to remain silent and should exercise it. Your name, birth date, and mailing address are all that are required.
Recording the interrogation in its entirety is one of the easiest strategies to avoid wrongful convictions due to false confessions. This will provide a clear account of what transpired, what was said by whom, and how the police conducted their questioning. The other benefits of recording an entire interview for defendants include:
- Maintaining a suspect’s right to due process throughout an interrogation.
- Police officers are less likely to use force if they know it will be documented.
- Informing law enforcement, investigators, and judges of a suspect’s mental health status may make them more vulnerable to intimidation.
Can a Police Misconduct Lawyer Prevent Coerced Confessions in the Police Department?
You have the right to have a lawyer present during any interrogation, as stated in the Constitution. You should tell the authorities that you want your attorney present when they take you in for interrogation and then get one as soon as possible. When you tell the police you want your lawyer, they are not allowed to question you further unless your lawyer is present.
Having a competent lawyer present will discourage law enforcement from using any form of coercion, whether psychological or physical. Your attorney will ensure that law enforcement officers do not abuse their power.
As was previously indicated, the prosecution must establish that the suspect voluntarily made a confession to criminal misconduct in order to present it as evidence in court. The prosecutor does this by looking at the bigger picture. A police misconduct attorney can either intervene to show that the statement was obtained unlawfully or keep a defendant from making a coerced confession during questioning in the first place.
An individual who has previously confessed may have their attorney file a motion to suppress the confession on the grounds that it was obtained under coercion. For example, if your defense attorney is able to show that law enforcement officers violated your constitutional rights or acted unreasonably during your questioning, your confession can be ruled inadmissible.
What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Police Misconduct Lawyer?
Lawyers who specialize in cases of police misconduct offer numerous advantages to their clients.
An attorney can attempt to have inadmissible evidence removed from a criminal case if it is brought against you. As a result, the criminal charges against you may be dropped or reduced.
Injunctions are another tool available to civil rights lawyers who seek to put an end to the unjust tactics of a law enforcement agency and its officers. If police misconduct claims are proven, the court may issue an injunction that significantly affects New York City police department policy. Law enforcement agencies may be required to do the following:
- Officer retraining
- Change the official procedures they’ve been using
- Look into current practices
- Terminate police officers who committed law enforcement misconduct
If recovering financial damages is possible, a lawyer can help you maximize compensation. Skilled lawyers won’t back down from those who are responsible, and they’ll turn down any inadequate settlement offers. They are also adept at uncovering overlooked evidence that can significantly boost your compensation.
Keep in mind that almost all civil rights lawyers and personal injury lawyers offer free initial consultations. This means that you can get answers to any of your legal concerns without having to pay.
Also, remember that the attorney-client privilege protects any conversations you have with your lawyer. Your lawyer can’t share those interactions without your permission.
Why You Should Look for Experience When Hiring a Police Misconduct Lawyer
Police brutality and misconduct victims face an uphill battle. They fight against the people whose job it is to enforce the law. Police officers are aware of different violations and the scope of the law’s restrictions. This makes it more challenging to explain how a law enforcement officer treated you unfairly.
Having a lawyer on your side who specializes in civil claims of police misconduct and brutality might change everything. This person is well-versed in the law and can identify violations of your constitutional rights. They are also equipped to pursue the offenders. However, not every lawyer has these strengths. There are plenty of lawyers in general, but there aren’t that many who focus specifically on cases involving alleged police misconduct.
You can’t put your faith in just anybody because every scenario is different. An inexperienced attorney won’t be able to properly investigate and help you get out of your unjust situation. Here are a few reasons why it’s important that your attorney has handled cases of police misconduct before.
Not all states follow the same laws and regulations. The same holds for legislation relating to police misconduct. As a result, you may run into trouble if you don’t have an expert lawyer on your side. Your top choice in legal representation for police brutality, excessive force, and other forms of misconduct should know when and who can file police misconduct lawsuits on your behalf.
Lawyers who tackle routine civil action cases without experience in this area may be taken aback by the fact that each instance of misconduct has its own set of rules and regulations.
If your selected attorney has the necessary skills, they should know influential people who can aid you in your pursuit of justice. These professionals, who may be experts in subjects including ballistics, psychiatry, forensic medicine, and law enforcement, are available for consultation and can even testify as witnesses.
Reputation and Respect
It’s only natural that a seasoned attorney would have a particular standing among judges and prosecuting attorneys. If your lawyer has their respect and trust, you’ll have a much better chance of succeeding in federal courts. This highlights once again why it’s crucial to retain the services of an experienced attorney.
Contact The Pagan Law Firm Today
If you ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being accused of a crime, The Pagan Law Firm is here to ensure that your rights are protected. We specialize in helping our clients protect themselves from coerced confessions, which occur when police or other law enforcement officers place pressure on you to say something that could be used against you during the trial.
At The Pagan Law Firm, our attorneys will vigilantly assess each case and use their knowledge and experience to ensure that no one’s rights are violated during police interrogations. Don’t hesitate to call us at (212) 967-8202 or contact us online.