When someone admits to a crime, their word may count as unassailable. Yet, an accused person may make a false confession. Some of these admissions stem from law enforcement pressure, while others occur due to false promises of lenience. Admitting guilt has caused people to spend years in prison for offenses they did not commit.
Why false confessions happen
False convictions can happen because many suspects do not want to endure lengthy police interrogation. Officers may put pressure on the accused so they can make an arrest. And they may promise suspects incentive for admitting to the crime.
Some states – including Oregon – have passed laws that mandate the recording of custodial interrogations. These laws exist to preserve the rights of the accused. But they may not prevent officers from:
- Intimidating suspects
- Making claims of incriminating evidence
- Using force against suspects
- Failing to inform suspects of their Miranda rights
Why evidence matters
When a suspect is coerced into confessing a crime, it is important they understand their options moving forward. Walking back their confession alone will not exonerate them. But any evidence contrary to the false confession could prove helpful. And any third-party or scientific evidence uncovered may aid them, too. In revisiting a conviction, courts may consider:
- Evidence the convicted party not commit the crime in question
- Evidence the alleged crime did not happen
- DNA evidence that points to a different perpetrator
- An objective confession of guilt from the true perpetrator
Many false confessions lead to convictions. Without the proper defense, these may prove difficult to overturn. Consulting an attorney with post-conviction experience can help improve the odds of doing so.