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Do innocent people really confess to committing crimes?

Imagine that you have been accused of a serious crime and are now sitting in a police interrogation room. Despite asserting your innocence, police continue to berate you with questions. Exhaustion starts to set in and all you want to do is go home. The question then arises: should you confess to the crime and simply prove your innocence later or do you continue with the interrogation?

Even though we'd all like to think that we could tough out an interrogation and prove our innocence in the end, a surprising number of people have allowed exhaustion, threats of harsh sentences and ignorance of the law to end interrogations with a false confession. In fact, the Innocence Project estimates that of those who are exonerated through DNA evidence, 1 out of 4 make a false confession or an incriminating statement.

The reasons? There are many to choose from.

Reasons innocent people confess

Exhaustion, threats of harsh sentences and ignorance of the law are not the only reasons why someone might confess to a crime they did not commit. As the Innocence Project explains, everything from coercion, duress, mental impairment, diminished capacity to even the fear of violence can all be factors in a false confession.

Juveniles are perhaps the most at risk of giving a false confession because of their limited understanding of the law. They could be easily manipulated into believing they did commit a crime or that they need to confess in order to get out of the situation.

Preventing a false confession

Unless you have a complete understanding of your rights and the charges against you, going through a police interrogation on your own is ill advised. The best way to avoid a false confession is to seek legal representation so that you fully understand the situation and are taking the right steps to avoid an even bigger legal headache later on. 

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