Law enforcement officers in Arizona and throughout the U.S. often use confessions as evidence in a criminal case. Yet, even if suspects sign a confession or statement, it does not necessarily mean they have committed a crime.
According to the Innocence Project, more than 360 people were released from prison after further DNA testing proved they were innocent. In many of those cases, some form of false confession was involved in the wrongful conviction. So what causes a person to confess to a crime they did not commit?
What is law enforcement coercion?
While some law enforcement officers use ethical and legal processes to gather a suspect’s account of what happened at the crime scene, others do not. Officers may use extreme methods to gather incriminating statements. These tactics include the following:
- Depriving you of sleep
- Saying there is evidence linking you to the crime when there is not
- Using fear tactics
- Interrogating you for long periods of time
- Threatening force or using physical force against you
- Saying that if you do not confess to the crime, you face harsher punishment
Coercion is especially difficult when suspects may have mental disabilities. Some may be unaware that they have rights, such as the right to have an attorney present or the right to remain silent.
What can you do?
Recordings of the interrogation process can help to eliminate unjust coercion tactics, as officers and suspects would have the understanding that their actions are being recorded. Not only does this ensure that the suspect’s rights are upheld, but it can also help the judge or jurors see if the suspect has mental limitations that may lead to false confessions.