False confessions and mental health issues
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False confessions and mental health issues

| Feb 6, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Law enforcement officers use a host of tactics to find evidence pertaining to a case. In most criminal cases, officers will attempt to obtain a confession from the suspect. Yet, the process of obtaining a confession is sometimes questionable, and in some cases, the confession is false.

According to the Innocence Project, the criminal justice system has released more than 360 people from prison after further evidence showed they received a wrongful conviction. In most of these cases, false confessions played a role in their erroneous conviction. Yet, why would someone confess to a crime they did not commit?

Tactics used to obtain a confession

When law enforcement questions suspects in a case, they often use methods to obtain information. In some situations, these methods may be unethical, aggressive and psychologically daunting, according to the Washington Post.

Depending on the circumstances, the tactics used during the interrogation process may include the following:

  • Threatening force or using physical force during interrogation
  • Intimidating the suspect using belittling comments
  • Telling suspects that there is already evidence tying them to the case when there is not
  • Telling suspects that if they do not confess, the punishment may be more extreme

People may also confess to a crime they did not commit if they are hungry, stressed, exhausted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Psychological limitations

Mental limitations play a big role in false confessions, as interrogators may sway people if they do not understand what is going on. Whether officers realize that someone has a mental condition or not, they may use the person’s ignorance of the process to persuade him or her to sign a false confession.

People may not understand that they have basic rights, that they may have an attorney present or have the right to remain silent and not answer the questions. Furthermore, they may agree with the interrogating officers just so they can return home.