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Why do people give false confessions?

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2023 | Theft & Property Crimes

For years, groups like the Innocence Project have been tracking exonerations in the United States. Because of the way that we can now use DNA evidence, it has been possible to release people who were falsely convicted. You do see stories about this every so often, so you’re probably aware that false convictions can and do happen.

But one of the most interesting things that the Innocence Project found was that, out of the hundreds of wrongful convictions that have already been overturned, they discovered some cases in which people had actually confessed. They knew that this was a false confession because DNA evidence proved they were not the perpetrator. But why would they confess to something they didn’t do? It feels a bit different than a wrongful conviction based on inaccurate eyewitness testimony or something of that nature.

Intimidation by law enforcement

In some cases, people are just intimidated by the police or they are manipulated. For instance, a young person may be told that they can go home to their parents if they’ll just say what the police want them to say. This isn’t true, but they may admit to the crime just so they can leave, only finding out that they’ve made their situation much worse later.

Compromised cognitive ability

In other cases, people will make false confessions because their ability to reason and think through the situation has been compromised. Maybe they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, for example. Maybe they were dealing with mental illness, or perhaps they had a limited education. There are also situations where people are just exhausted or stressed, and they will say things that they later regret.

If you are facing charges, it’s quite important to know exactly what legal steps to take to seek the proper outcome.