Why do people make false confessions?

You probably know about your constitutional right to remain silent when questioned by police. You have no obligation to confess to any crime. It is up to law enforcement to prove your guilt. Unfortunately, some people admit to a crime while questioned by police.

Why would anyone admit to committing a crime when they have the right not to do so? Live Science explains some reasons why people confess and even make false admissions to a crime.

Police may contribute to confessions

If you go into an interrogation, odds are that the police know a lot more about the crime than you do. Over the course of the questioning, the police may reveal facts about the crime. These questions can be leading and could convince you that you were responsible for the crime, especially if the police show you evidence.

The pressure of the moment may make you think you should confess in the hopes you can receive a lighter sentence. But there is no reason to incriminate yourself. The police might claim to have evidence, but they may be lying to you. Even if the police do produce evidence, it is not a given that the evidence would stand up in court.

Young people and the mentally disabled

An encounter with the police can be a scary event, especially for young people who have never spoken to a police officer before. The presence of the badge may prove intimidating. The pressure of police questioning may cause a young person to forget about asserting his or her constitutional rights and worry more about getting out of the situation.

People hampered by fatigue may also crack under pressure. If an arrest occurs at night, the arrested person may be in a tired state or under stress. Sometimes police will arrest and question someone with mental impairments. The person may not be able to fully comprehend what is going on or how to assert his or her constitutional protection against self-incrimination.

Know your rights

Sometimes a person goes into an interrogation fully confident of their innocence and does not think to assert their rights or call an attorney. This can be a mistake if the police lay out a supposedly convincing case of the person’s guilt. Your rights under the U.S. Constitution are clear: you can remain silent and do not have to confess to anything.

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