A false confession is when someone claims they have committed a crime and admits it to the authorities or even in court, despite the fact that they never broke the law. They didn’t do what they have been accused of doing, and yet they’re admitting to it anyway, potentially risking fines and/or time in prison.
This sounds like something that would never take place, but it certainly does happen. There have been cases where convictions have been overturned by DNA evidence, for instance, so the authorities know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the convicted person did not commit the crime. And yet, that person initially admitted to the crime. Why would this happen?
Pressure from the police
Often, false confessions are because of some type of pressure or manipulation by the police. Perhaps they lied about the evidence that they had gathered. Maybe they claimed that they had video evidence or witness statements.
A high number of false confessions come from young people. A police officer may try to manipulate a child by telling them that they can go home if they will just confess to the crime. The young person desperately wants to go home more than anything else, so they say whatever the police want to hear.
There have also been cases in which people have given false confessions after long and intense interrogations. Someone who is hungry, thirsty, sleep-deprived and uncomfortable may finally just “confess” to a crime they never committed because of these outside stressors. They just want to stop the interrogation, no matter what.
It’s important for the police to gather evidence and confessions properly, without violating a suspect’s rights. Those who feel they have been manipulated or coerced need to understand the legal steps they can take.