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Why do innocent people make false confessions?

To people who have never been the subject of a police interrogation, falsely confessing to any crime is inconceivable. However, anyone can give in to the strange allure of making a false confession, even residents of quiet Oklahoma towns. Further, these confessions occur more often than many people believe.

Why would a person risk his or her freedom by admitting to something that did not happen? As to why a particular person may fall prey to making a false confession, even criminal defense attorneys do not have all the answers. Many elements play a role in these confessions from law enforcement interrogation tactics to pure psychology.

To help you understand the phenomenon better, here are some of the reasons someone may falsely confess to criminal activity.

-- Questionable interrogation techniques including false statements about the available evidence

-- The use of force or intimidation by interrogators

-- Reduced mental capacity of the person under interrogation

-- Stress factors such as exhaustion, hunger or fear, especially in interrogations that go on for hours

-- Perceived threat on the part of the person under interrogation

Logic will tell you that saying you committed a crime when you did not is not just a lie, it is a serious mistake. This is where some of the more psychological elements can come into play.

For example, you may understand that falsely confessing to murder could land you in prison. However, after several hours of intense interrogation by detectives who may imply that you can go home if you confess, it is easier than you think to succumb to the temptation.

Remember, you have the constitutional right to remain silent in order to avoid implicating yourself in a crime. Not speaking to police officers or detectives is your first line of defense, even though it may be difficult to resist. For best results, insist on having a criminal defense lawyer present during your questioning. He or she can help you protect your rights.

Source: The Innocence Project, "False Confessions & Recording Of Custodial Interrogations," accessed Feb. 24, 2017

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