If you think only guilty people confess to crimes, you couldn't be more wrong. In fact, innocent individuals are often convicted after they provide police with false confessions.
Just how common are false confessions? A lot more common than many people know. For instance, according to the Innocence Project, more than 25 percent of wrongful conviction victims who were later exonerated by DNA evidence originally made a false confession to police.
So what could possibly motivate innocent individuals to confess to crimes they did not commit? Well, there are several possible reasons, including:
- They are lied to by police: Unfortunately, it is perfectly legal for police to use deceptive tactics when interrogating suspects. In some cases, law enforcement will lie and claim that they have already collected significant forensic evidence to prove a person's guilt, even though they may have no evidence at all. When facing such claims, an innocent person can easily feel pressured into confessing.
- They want to avoid harsher sentences: In many cases, police may tell suspects that the evidence is so strong that they are going to be convicted no matter what, but if they provide a confession, their sentence will be more lenient. Even when the so-called "strong" evidence doesn't exist, an individual may feel like they have no choice but to confess in order to avoid a lengthy prison sentence or the death penalty, even if the confession isn't true.
- They want the interrogation to stop: Police interrogations can last for hours. Oftentimes, the stress, lack of rest and manipulative interrogation techniques can get the better of even innocent individuals. They just want it to stop, and they will do anything they can to get this to happen, including confessing to something they didn't do.
While you may believe you would never admit to a crime you didn't commit, the truth is that you never know how you will react to intense police questioning until you are the one being interrogated. Unfortunately, though, false confessions are merely one of many reasons why people are wrongfully convicted of criminal offenses.