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Causes of False Confessions


Thousands of people across the U.S. are in prison due to wrongful convictions. In fact, it is believed that there are more innocent individuals in American jails today than ever before. Wrongful convictions happen for a variety of reasons. For example, flawed facial recognition software can lead to a wrongful conviction. Cases of law enforcers mistakenly arresting and convicting people after relying on flawed facial recognition software are not uncommon. However, the issue of wrongful convictions is being worsened by other things. A problem like flawed facial recognition software is generally a minor contributor to the issue of wrongful convictions.

Many wrongful conviction cases in America involve some form of false confession. You might find it hard to understand why an individual would confess to a crime they didn’t commit. However, as much as it seems unbelievable, false confessions are one of the main contributors to wrongful convictions. Researchers have studied the phenomenon of false confessions and identified some of the factors that cause such confessions.

What Are the Causes of False Confessions?

Often, people blame police officers for the issue of false confessions. Indeed, some police officers do intimidate and coerce suspects during interrogation, to the extent of suspects falsely confessing to crimes they didn’t commit. A police officer can use an obvious coercive interrogation technique to get you to confess to a crime you didn’t commit. Conversely, a police officer can use an interrogation technique that makes you feel like you have no choice but to confess to committing the crime in question even if you are innocent. Whether or not you give a false confession in such a situation depends on your ability to withstand interrogation pressure. Nonetheless, according to researchers, several other things can explain the phenomenon of false confessions as much as some police officers do intimidate and coerce suspects.

It is vital to note that the following is not an exhaustive list of the causes of false confessions.

A suspect could falsely confess to committing a crime they didn’t commit because of;

  • believing a confession will help them secure favorable punishment.
  • perceiving intimidation from law enforcers.
  • the use of pressure, on the part of law enforcers, during interrogation.
  • compromised reasoning ability because of stress, mental limitations, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, etc.

Sleep Deprivation and False Confessions

According to research, sleep deprivation is one of the things that negatively affects reasoning ability and leads to false confessions. In one particular study, participants were asked to complete some computer tasks over multiple sessions. During the last session, some individuals remained awake all night while others slept. When morning came, all participants were asked to sign a statement that summarized the activities they had been doing and falsely alleged that they had pressed a key that caused the loss of data. Results indicated that the participants that stayed awake all night were more willing to sign the statement than those that rested. From such a study, it is evident that sleep deprivation can cause confusion and misjudgment. If police officers interrogate you while you are sleep- or rest-deprived, you could end up falsely confessing to a crime you didn’t commit.

Contact an NYC Criminal Defense Attorney Today

To avoid falsely confessing, for whatever reason, to a crime you didn’t commit, you must work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact our NYC criminal attorney at the Law Office of Mark I. Cohen, Esq. today to receive legal help.



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